The fellow I’ve been seeing (I’ll call him The Conductor) asked me to go to an art exhibit of black and white photography. I really enjoy going to art exhibits, museums, and the like. But I also find it intimidating.
Milwaukee is such a segregated town. Not just racially (which is an issue in and of itself) but sub-culturally, too. We’re a town divided into parts and neighborhoods that not only have names, but their own identities. Riverwest for the hippies. The East Side for the yuppies. The South Side is where all the blue collar workers live, and so on.
I’m a South sider, born and bred. I come from a long line of middle-class working folks. And I’m proud of it. Stereotypically speaking, that means I come from a long line of people with no couth, no sense of class, and no sense of taste.
Unfortunately our segregation has spilled over onto the suburbs too. West Allis, for instance, has long been viewed as the armpit of south east Wisconsin. Cudahy is even more working class than the south side. But then there’s the towns on Lake Michigan’s north shore like Fox Point, Glendale, Bayside, and Whitefish Bay (a.k.a. White Folks Bay). The names should give you a clue that those towns are where all the rich folks live.
This area is referred to as the North Shore.
And the rich, stereotypically speaking, are all about class and culture and taste. Which means they are far better experts on art than I am.
Thee women of this class are known as North Shore Nancys.
Which is where the crazy intimidation comes in. In the back of my mind I’m worried that they’re going to spot me and a deafening silence will fall upon the crowd and they’ll all start pointing and exclaiming, “You south side Polack, you! You don’t belong here!”
Stupid, hey? Art is subjective. Open to interpretation. So who’s to say a working class girl’s impression is any less than a rich girl’s? And I’ve met plenty of poorer people with taste and manners and equally as many rich with no sense of class at all. But still, I have just that bit of nervousness, dumb as it is.
To calm my nerves, I made this top:
The skirt is purchased but the top is Butterick 5269, a See & Sew pattern. Quick and easy. I wore it to work so my picture could be taken and, from my diverse mix of female co-workers I got, “Oooh” and “Oh! Jillain!!”
And that made me think, “Nuts to you Nancys!” I MADE this. There’s no other top exactly like this one out there. It’s an original and it’s MY creation. So is every other piece I sew. Therefore, I, too, am an artist. And what made me even happier was the thought that this top cost me less than $10 to make…but I could hang it in a boutique, call it "couture", and probably get one of those Nancy’s to pay a good $200 for it.
So if art is subjective, what does the piece I'm contemplating say? I thought it said, "Use the stairs, not the elevator". (That's my office's emergency escape route I'm pondering).
Anyways, I walked into that gallery with my head held high, at The Conductor's side, ready to show those snooty North Shore Nancys a thing or two about how to define art.
And of course the gallery was chilly so everyone kept their coats on.