Jill Magi :: To a Person Who Applies Blueness




“Voiceover: a deliberate room whose door is open frames her—
how to tie up the event
of her mouth—
Image of an embroidered surface, someone’s handwriting, but the words are partial.
The tips of fingers graze this raised surface. Voiceover, continuing:
You who wanted the ring off, whose hand kept lifting to tell us—
Comes silence and a still image of three lines of rough text in black and white,
stretching across as a horizon would.”


A STATEMENT ON BLUENESS :: I wanted to learn to quilt. Seemingly not able to follow directions from a book, I took out the quilt my mother made for Jonny and me in 1998 to see what I could learn. The pattern is called ‘Around the World’ and includes fabric swatches from my mother’s travels, which were not really that broad. I read her notes on the origins of the fabric—her key to the quilt—and discovered dress swatches from my mother, sister, and maternal grandmother formed the inner three rings, before the travel-based squares begin. Those inner rings are very delicate parts in need of the most repair.

My mother knew my wanderlust. But could she have known that I would attempt to repair her quilt so far away from “home,” in Abu Dhabi? In the year that she died, we moved to Chicago and there I was presented with the giant blue horizon of Lake Michigan. I thought that horizon could be portable, and with every difficult encounter, I still remember that horizon that absorbed so much of my grief.

From the 27th floor of my apartment building this January, I worked on my mother’s quilt in red thread. Looking out the window, I noticed traffic like stitching, thread moving through the seams of the city. There are insistent pedestrians who defy that seam and make new paths that disappear, again and again. This was a comfort and everything seemed to be saying, ‘be bright, daughter, be bright.’

Going through archives of old and unplaced writings, I found horizon-shaped lines of poetry I made in Chicago and an embroidery from that same year. Looking for more trace than artifact, I made chine-collé prints of this embroidery that combines my mother’s handwriting with my own. I read up on the indigo dying practices of middle-aged women in Indonesia. I re-read The Body is a Clear Place by Eric Hawkins. I remembered the violence in Mexico on the day she died. Another seam: the television above her hospital bed. There are other sources and the film sewed it up, including my voice. This is one version of the origin of ‘To a Person Who Applies Blueness, a Script.’



Jill Magi is an artist, educator, and critic who works in text, image, and textile. Her books—textimage hybrid works—include Threads (Futurepoem 2007), Torchwood (Shearsman 2008), SLOT (Ugly Duckling Presse 2011), Cadastral Map (Shearsman 2011), and LABOR (Nightboat 2014). Her recent critical work on “a textile poetics” was featured weekly for three months on Jacket2, an on-line journal of poetry and poetics, and Rattapallax/Moving Furniture Press published her critical work on textimage hybridity entitled Pageviews/Innervisions. She was a resident writer with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, a resident artist at the Brooklyn Textile Arts Center, and her first solo show of visual work was put on by the NYU Abu Dhabi Project Space gallery in the fall of 2015. After over twenty years of teaching in numerous liberal arts and art school programs, Jill joined the faculty at New York University Abu Dhabi in 2013 where she teaches expository writing through the study of textiles, as well as electives in poetry.