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Almost twelve years ago I was biking to work on Market Street when a truck carrying cement ran me over. It crossed my chest, broke my ribs, which punctured my lungs. But my bad luck arrives wrapped in good luck. The frame of my bike protected me in a weird way. The truck didn’t cross my pelvis. I was wearing a helmet and didn’t crack my head. A kind man with a goatee held my hand in the middle of the intersection while I waited for the ambulance to arrive. I should have died but I didn’t.
In 2018 I’ll have run 700 miles and completed 24 races. I’m a middling good runner and like to run 5Ks and 10Ks, so not some epic ultra marathoner person. I placed 3rd in my age group, twice, which is pretty remarkable all things considered. The largest lasting issues with having been run over by a truck are chronic anxiety and muscle spasm pain, and running helps me manage these. As I run I think about art, about moving thru space, about the city around me, and that I am lucky to be alive. I remember very clearly the blue of the sky as I lay there on Market Street. I have an intimate relationship with our city, to say the least. The accident gave me a lot of perspective on life and what I’d like to do with mine. I’m lucky to be alive, and I want to make an epic needlework project about that. But also about my running, about San Francisco, about sponsorship, and the human body. Art as a sort of diary or documentation that I’m fortunately able bodied and moving thru the world.
For a year I plan to run four times a week, and race two times per month. While I run, I’ll use a run mapping app. Run mapping apps track the route that I follow on a run. After my run, I’ll then project each map onto a flour sack cloth (this is a very typical domestic embroidery material because of its even weave and functional nature. It is white and square. I will use the term ‘canvas’ going forward because I treat it like a canvas. Also ‘sack’ sounds weird.) Then I stitch over the traced line of my map. Each stitched run will be color coded so as to identify the route clearly and it will be stitched using running stitch, thus the series title Running Stitch.
Each run from a given month will be layered on one canvas, creating a map specific to my engagement with SF. I’ll stitch a key to color code the floss with the date, machine sew the racing bibs to the canvas, and incorporate any sponsorship logos along the base. At the end of the month I’ll stretch the canvas across canvas bars. The work may appear somewhat abstract, a series of colorful squiggly lines on a white background with stitched dates and attached running bibs, but depending on my routes, it may appear more clearly a map of San Francisco.
During all of this I will approach sponsors and donors looking for support. I already have three sponsors: Destination Racing, Sasquatch Racing and Run Club SF.
My goals for this series are multi-fold. As an athlete, I hope this commitment to my running will improve my speed and performance. And, as a mediocre athlete, I hope the novelty of my endeavor will attract sponsors and support which will allow me to continue competing and improving my running at a subsidized cost. As a San Franciscan I plan for this project to take me beyond my routine and outside of my standard movement within the city. To continually create different and interesting maps, I’ll need to follow new routes in different neighborhoods. Which means I’ll see more of our city; thus expanding my relationship with San Francisco. As an artist, this series will complete a body of work to be showcased in my solo exhibition. It’ll be a study in mapping, athleticism, sponsorship, valuation, technical stitching skills, and abstraction. But it will be bigger than all of these things because of my relationship to San Francisco, and my meditation on what it means to be alive.
This series will be an extremely revealing and intimate journal of my life over a year long period of time. It will document where I have been, what areas I frequent, where I live, where my kids go to school, where my studio space is, what races I’ve entered, how I’ve placed, and each workout I complete. As my sponsorship list grows it may even document what I’ve had to drink and eat, what gear I use, what shoe brands I prefer, how I’m valued as an athlete and artist, and who my supporters are. All while appearing to be a series of relatively minimalist or abstract needlework studies in running stitch.