The following is an interview between the Keesean Moore and Maryam Pugh—owner of Philadelphia Printworks. The photos are courtesy of the John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archive at the William Way Center and the product photography is by Stephanie DeFeo.
So, what made you want to do this project?
I’ve always been fascinated by archival work and I’ve also always loved fashion. This was my opportunity to combine the two and create fashion that celebrates Black Queer history and is super chic.
How did it feel studying the archive?
Sifting through the John J. Wilcox Archive was a dream come true. Philadelphia has so much rich Queer history. So connecting the dots and highlighting the existence/persistence of Black Queer culture was both a challenge and ultra-fulfilling.
Were you surprised by any of the things that you found?
There were definitely moments of surprise – finding images of Essex Hemphill backstage before performances sent chills down my spine. Discovering the plight of Gregory Smith and protests around his arrest was incredibly moving. It was also really fascinating to be able to visualize and, at times, touch/make tangible so many elements of the City’s Queer history.
How long have you been a poet?
I’ve been a poet since I was a kid with varying degrees of commitment. It’s less of a “career” and more of a way of seeing and understanding the world for me. Sometimes it takes time for me to understand the full spectrum of my emotions and poetry helps me get to the root of a feeling and usually that root is tied to something unresolved or undiscovered in the past.
How does being a multidisciplinary artist enhance and/or detract from your work?
I feel like there is freedom outside of any binary. I think that to work in a multidisciplinary capacity is to truly be free. It pushes you to grow and stretch yourself outside boundaries and limits imposed by people in power. I feel like there’s a necessary rebelliousness and fugitivity involved in finding your own path, in being an accumulation instead of being formulaic. I owe a lot of this to Fred Motens theories on the Black radical tradition.