“Drain the Swamp” by Danielle Otis. Image courtesy of Speedwell Projects

After Donald Trump became president, Diana Weymar was shocked and appalled by much of what he said and did. But the activist-artist didn’t know how to respond.

“I don’t think I felt enraged as much as I felt incapacitated. I felt I didn’t have a way to engage,” she said. “Not having a way to create any sort of output can be incapacitating and demoralizing.”

Diana Weymar Photo courtesy of the artist

While driving from Princeton, New Jersey, to New York City early in 2018, Weymar found her artistic voice when she heard the president describe himself as “a very stable genius.” That comment struck her as outrageous and troubling. “That comment revealed to me what was happening in a way that other things he had said did not,” Weymar said.

It also unblocked her creative impasse and led to a wildly successful community-based textile protest, the Tiny Pricks Project. Weymar, an American artist who lives in British Columbia, stitched the quote into a piece of antique fabric, posted it on Instagram and got an immediate and overwhelmingly positive response. She decided to stitch one outrageous Trump quote each week of his presidency. Friends wanted to contribute, so she scheduled community workshops. It has since become a global protest.

Speedwell Projects in Portland is hosting “Tiny Pricks” through Nov. 3 at its Forest Avenue gallery. It’s a vast collection of Trump quotes, displayed on a floor-to-ceiling wall of fabric.

Gallery owner Joceyln Lee said the project gives people a chance to react and respond and to gather as a community of makers. The gallery has textiles and materials available, so people can come in and stitch in the gallery or stitch at home and drop their creations off at the gallery. The contributions from Maine will be added to the growing number of quotes that Weymar is collecting from around the world. “People are angry, and they are angry alone in their homes. This is a way to come together and feel some comfort,” Lee said.

Weymar’s goal was to collect 2,020 embroidered quotes by 2020. She expects to surpass that number before Trump leaves office.

A small section of the installation at Speedwell Projects. Photo by Winky Lewis

Weymar is enthused the project has spread from an idea borne of frustration into something self-sustaining. “It is really starting to divine itself as a grassroots movement, but one that keeps the essence of its origins and adapts daily to what’s happening,” said Weymar, who lived in Maine with her family for two years earlier this decade. “These last few weeks, I can feel the project changing. I can feel a kind of intensity and energy around it.”

She will be at the gallery for a closing talk from 1-1:45 p.m. Nov. 3.

A feminist theme runs throughout the work. Embroidery is closely associated with women’s suffrage and is symbolic of warmth and civility, Weymar said. Lee scheduled Portland writer Lulu Rasor to read from her new collection of poetry, “An Open Letter to Ophelia,” at 7 p.m. Thursday. Rasor, from Yarmouth, is a freshman at Oberlin College in Ohio, and her book is her first collection of poetry. She published “An Open Letter to Ophelia” through the Telling Room’s Young Emerging Authors Fellowship.

Rasor grew up reading fairy tales and mythology, and didn’t appreciate that most of the stories were told from a male perspective. “I got tired of it, and eventually I started wondering, ‘Why aren’t there stories where women are allowed to be the central figure and allowed to speak?’ ”

She wrote her own, as poems. She wrote her first to Ophelia, a character from “Hamlet,” best known for being on the receiving end of Hamlet’s entreaty, “Get thee to a nunnery.” Later in the play, Ophelia goes mad and begins talking in riddles and rhymes and singing songs about maidens and death. In her poetry, Rasor imagines what the witches and queens would say, if given a voice.

Lee, a family friend, thought Rasor’s reading would provide a perfect complement for the exhibition. Trump’s words on the wall offer real-world context for the mythology that Rasor is working with in her poems, she said.

“We really support Lulu,” Lee said. “I would have done it regardless of the show. She is a remarkable young woman.”

“I Want Great Climate” Image courtesy of Speedwell Projects

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