35. The Hat’s Up to You

Edition of 18 copies
170″ x 14″ fully extended

A person of many hats is one of many professions or occupations. Historically, hats, or lack of them, have indicated class, sex, marital status, religion, and social standing, as well as profession, and hats have inspired a great number of euphemisms. Ethnic groups, sex workers, and women have all been repeatedly required to wear hats or hoods at different times in various cultures to identify their status. Sometimes the name of the hat, such as “flatcap,” became transferred to the person wearing the hat, which in this case meant “apprentice.” But it is the use of the word “hat” as a substitute for “profession” that inspired this work.

The hats are made from a strong but soft and wrinkled Japanese paper sent from Japan, which was painted with fabric paint, stenciled or printed with linocut, and sewn on a sewing machine with some elements stitched by hand. They represent a royal sovereign, a witch, a chef, a shaman from Mongolia, a pope or a bishop, a Japanese dramatic character from kabuki theater known as “sanbase,” and finally someone who works with radioactive materials.

The first part of the poem is perforated with a sewing machine needle around the edges of the museum board circles on which each of the seven hats rests. The remainder of the poem is printed by Stamperia Valdonega on a folded paper hat found in the bottom of the box. The work is signed and dated at the end of the poem.

Originally used by both men and women in the United States, hat boxes, or bandboxes as they are commonly known, stored and carried large, starched collars in the 1600s. Fashions changed and accoutrements multiplied, so the boxes came to be used not just for bonnets or top hats, but as portable containers for ribbons, artificial flowers, hairpieces, jewelry, collars, and other small items.

The bandbox flourished from 1825-1850, when new forms of transportation and traveling were being promoted, such as tours by steamboat, canal boat, and railroad train, which brought people to new hotels built near historical and natural areas. Most significantly, perhaps, was the new labor force of young women occupied in the textile mills of New England. These wage earners purchased bandboxes as storage containers for their newly acquired fashions, permitting them to transport their new trifles home on frequent trips to their native New England states. However, as transportation became more refined, spacious baggage rooms on boats and trains eliminated the vogue for the rather frail wooden and pasteboard boxes in favor of sturdy steamer trunks. Luckily, some have survived in attics, as they continued to fulfill their original purpose, that of storage container.

This particular bandbox is made by hand with museum board and acid-free paper printed with a linocut depicting the church of San Luca of Bologna. Themes of Classical architecture were often used on the wallpaper covering bandboxes, inspired by the archeological discoveries in Italy and Egypt, as well as by travels to the orient. Another common theme consisted of historical designs, which commemorated landmarks and monuments. San Luca, a church redesigned in the 1700s, sits atop a hill above Bologna. Beyond being a symbol of the city, it is also a place of pilgrimage, for it houses a portrait of the Madonna and Child sacred to Bologna. The tassel on the cover of the box may be inverted to simulate the cupola of San Luca.


You can be born with a hat,
Scorn a hat,

Misuse a hat,
Or be accused of a hat.

You can create a hat,
Debate a hat,

Heal for a hat,
Or appeal for a hat.

You can pray for a hat,

Play for a hat,

Foray for a hat,
Or decay for a hat.








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