As a child, Sonya Clark was taught to sew by her grandmother, who promised to tell her granddaughter a story if she joined her in needlework. Those early lessons in craft and storytelling taught Sonya about the importance of forming a narrative thread (literally and figuratively).
The comic, “If You Stitch With Me, I’ll Tell You a Story,” beautifully drawn by Abigail Rajunov, a student at the Ringling College of Art and Design, begins with the artist and her grandmother, a tailor, sewing together. “She would say that tailoring changed her life, saved her life in one sense,” Sonya recalls, as if there’s more to sewing than meets the eye, some kind of secret in the craft. It could be life changing. Both Sonya and her grandmother look at each other lovingly as the comic begins to unfold. Readers later find Sonya as a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow discovering the dishtowel that was used as the Confederate surrender flag at the National Museum of American History. It made her wonder, “What if this flag of truce was the flag we knew, instead of the Confederate battle flag?” Clark set out to create a monumental version of the symbol.
Wonder is also crucial in Abigail’s visual telling of Sonya’s story and the making of Monumental. Her illustrations, rich in blues and browns, create the backdrop for Sonya’s deeply felt work. We not only see the handwork, but in Abigail’s drawings, the heartwork in her moving portrayals of the artist, whether with family, questioning an object, or weaving her own work of art.
This comic is part of a series Drawn to Art: Tales of Inspiring Women Artists that illuminates the stories of women artists in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inspired by graphic novels, these short takes on artists’ lives were each drawn by a student-illustrator from the Ringling College of Art and Design.
We invite you to read the comic and share with your friends and young people in your life.