Homeland Security (Blanket) (2008) - Jerilea Zempel

I was going to write an artist statement about how I wanted to turn an oversized, macho, gas-guzzling vehicle into a technological ghost by shrouding it in a white, fuzzy cover, reminiscent of women's handwork from another time, another place.

What happened when I re-entered the US from Canada made me re-examine what my lowly art project could mean in a larger political sphere. And it gave me an idea for a title.

My worn-out passport set off the first alarm with the US Border Patrol. US citizen who have traveled to the places I've been over the past 9 years (Africa, Australia, Mexico, Central and South America, Turkey and Europe) need to be looked at more carefully.

A half hour at the computer gave the agent cause to put me into another suspicious category that merited a full car search. After going through my computer, digital camera, cell phone, business cads, suitcase, reading materials, boxes of yarn and crochet tools, she returned with my sketchbook in hand. I was taken to a room and told to sit on a bench with handcuffs at both ends.

"Just what were you doing in Canada? We think you're engaged in some kind of copyright infringement." The accusation was based on drawings of cars like this. After a lively discussion, my university faculty status and positive ID persuaded her to call of the dogs. Then she welcomed me back to the US.


Note: Zempel was also interviewed on the Colbert Report about this incident and project.