Artist Interview: Jeremy Chase Sanders

Jeremy Chase Sanders was featured in the Queer Cultural Center’s exhibition QIY: Queer It Yourself – Tools for Survival, June 4 – 24, 2011.

What inspired you to submit a proposal to be part of QIY: Queer It Yourself – Tools for Survival, and what excites you about being part of this exhibition?
This is my third time contributing to the Queer Cultural Center’s annual exhibition, and it’s always a great show. I’m excited to be featured as a prominent queer artist in San Francisco, and nationally.

Tell us a little bit about your installation, Convention?
In general my work examines the role of textiles in the “ordinary.” I’m interested in what makes things read as “ordinary” in the everyday. “Traditional” or “Conventional” things that pass under the radar as commonplace often have rich social and cultural histories. In this piece, I present “conventional” domestic items that are used in the social practice of dining, which are actually unnecessary. While placemats and napkins arguably do have a utilitarian function, I contend that their primary use is for social/cultural ritual. Look at it this way: if you are starving, are you going to spend your hard earned money on food or napkins? The textiles associated with dining become a type of status symbol, an indicator of cultural relevance and civility. Yet participation in this “convention” requires a certain amount of economic fortitude. Therefore something we regard as commonplace and traditional can be exposed as divisive social construct that includes some at the expense of others. Furthermore, this installation deals specifically with cotton production and manufacturing. Cotton has become a ubiquitous commodity, that is the mark of industrialized society. The “ordinariness” that cotton exudes hides a larger picture.

Is Convention part of a larger body of work?
In a sense, yes. I weave “queer plaids” that contain words coded into the patterns. I experience synesthesia, which causes me to see a certain color associated with every letter of the alphabet. I match threads to the colors I see in language and weave cloth with coded text. I use this process to elucidate the subtle hierarchies embedded in the sartorial narratives in the fabrics we wear and use everyday.

What do the place mats and coordinating cloth napkins represent?
In Convention each place mat is one of the four countries that produce most of the worlds raw cotton, USA, India, Brazil, and Uzbekistan. The napkins each represent a slang word for “gay man” in each of those countries.

What kind of dialog do you hope to stimulate as people view Convention?
By layering the slang with the nations in a piece titled “convention”my goal is to question which people are allowed to participate in the “conventions” of their society or the global community and why. The Uzbek word for example is the name of the “crime” of being gay, which is outlawed in that country. Ostensibly there are benefits to being a industrialized civilization that participates in global exchange, but who in that civilization reaps the benefits?

Are the textiles we see here industrially or hand-made?
Everything I make is woven by hand, though I strive to emulate the quality of industrial textile design on both form and execution. I aim to challenge peoples assumptions about how things are made and by whom. The disconnect many viewers experience between the product and the producer illuminates a larger blindness/ignorance between consumers and manufacturers. In my view, the average Western consumer has be largely disenfranchised from the production of the goods on which we depend every day.

Did you incorporate any re-claimed materials?
I do often use donated threads from other makers, but because of my process and specificity of the colors that gets tricky. However, this Ikea table was found on the street and reclaimed for this installation! I try to use reused and recycled materials whenever possible.

How can we follow you online to find out about future opportunities to see your work?
You can visit my website, email me at, and follow my Facebook page. I also take commissions!