Cotton fabrics, cotton batting and chain
This work titled The politician is made up of two individual pieces that have been permanently married together. The work shirt, made up of strips of African print fabric, has a bleeding heart reverse-appliqued on the left side of the chest. The bottom hems are left unfinished to give the form a ghostly presence. The floating work shirt is wrapped with a piece titled Suspicious Activity. Suspicious Activity is made up of seven African print hands each filled with cotton batting. The cotton is falling out the bottom of each as if the hands have been severed from a more complete body. With this work, Couch is reacting to the resurgence of a fight for civil rights within American society witnessed in 2020. The materials used, cotton, African prints, chain, have a potency to them that refuse to go unnoticed.
The politician is one of many similar works. When beginning to create this body of work, he was drawn to quilting for its sustainable qualities. He could take scraps from old projects or old clothes and give them a new life. Through his research, Couch quickly found the quilting tradition within Black American culture. He has become heavily influenced by contemporary quilters such as Bisa Butler, but also the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama not only for their incredible story of perseverance but also for their works of art. To them, quilting is a necessity. It keeps them warm during harsh winters and builds community among the quilters as they gather to hand-quilt an individual’s patchwork. He wanted to employ patchwork and quilting, push the boundaries, and add to the ongoing conversation of how a quilt can be a canvas for Black expression.
Isaac Couch, The Politician, 2021. Photo courtesy of the artist
Originally from Western KY where corn is farmed and coal is mined, Isaac Couch has brought his southern perspective to the northern city of Chicago where he lives and works. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Merchandising Apparel and Textiles from the University of Kentucky, he went on to earn his Masters of Design at SAIC. During his time there he learned how to express his passion for issues such as the social relations within his country, system abolition, and climate change. Following graduation, he was awarded with both the Luminarts Fashion as well as the Fashion Council Graduate Fellowships.