Primary Source Description

Centered across the top of the horizontal grey felt block are capitalized black bold letters that spell out “DONALD J. PLETZKE”. At first glance, the audience can easily observe the symmetry of the panel and the variety of different clothing items that have been carefully folded, cut, and sewn on to the quilt to display their messages. Pictures and tokens of Pletzke’s life are carefully attached to the panel. Each of these items had a significance to Donald J. Pletzke.

AIDS Quilt made for Donald J. Pletzke

Five items of clothing are displayed on to the felt quilt in an aesthetically pleasing order. From left to right the color pattern is as follows: white, blue, black, blue, white. The colors utilized match the same colors that are found on the small flag in the bottom left corner. The lettering on the first white cotton shirt states “Mohawk Leather Atlanta” and includes a black and white sketch of man with a Mohawk hairstyle underneath. Next in line is the light blue shirt with small, white font stating, “I’m the Daddy, that’s why” that stretches about 10 inches horizontally across the shirt. In the center of the entire block is a black leather vest, kept unfolded and uncut, with a small red ribbon pinned on the left side panel where one’s heart would be which symbolizes solidarity of people living with AIDS and HIV.

AIDS/HIV Ribbon:

Stop AIDS sign.

This ribbon contains a small golden angel placed directly in the center. A gold-plated medal pin, rectangular in shape, is placed right above the ribbon and reads “BULLETWOMAN”. Proceeding the vest is a blue jersey like shirt that is folded in a way that only the back is visible. It contains a large number seven in black centered on the back of the shirt. Last in the row is another white cotton t-shirt with an abstract design on the front. It includes eyes and a mouth, along with stating “HOLLYWOOD hits ‘89”. These shirts are presented in a timeline fashion progressing from one side to the other with the peak being the middle black leather vest. The quilt has a mournful effect on the audience due to the neutral color scheme layout which incorporates the blues, whites, and blacks on a gray backdrop.

Under the row of shirts centered in the very bottom are the dates of Donald J Pletzke’s life. The date of his birth comes first (2-20-47) and then the date of his death is underneath it (4-25-93) making him 46 years old at his time of death. Both dates are in the same black bold font as his name at the top. The numbers were created from black fabric cut-outs. Similar to a tombstone, the dates are appeal to the viewers in a way that commemorates the life of Pletzke.

On the bottom left hand side of the quilt, adjacent to the dates, there is a picture of a leather pride flag. It contains nine horizontal stripes altering from royal blue and black and has one white strip in the middle. In the upper left corner is a red heart. This flag is about 6 inches wide and 9 inches long and it printed on the fabric. First created by Tony Deblase, this gay pride symbol was used in 1986 for an International Mr. Leather Competition (IML). International Mr. Leather is a contest/conference of Leathermen held In Chicago, Illinois every May since 1979. The leather subculture is the practice of sexual activities involving leather garments such as belts, pants, jackets, etc. and is mostly centered around gay communities, more specifically gay men. Leathermen strongly associate with the BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism, Masochism) sexual fetish and other kinks.

Image of the Leather Pride Flag

Leather Flag at a Gay Pride Parade 

For more information on the Leather Pride Flag and Gay Pride Flags:

http://clarebayley.com/2013/06/a-field-guide-to-pride-flags/

Image of International Mr. Leather logo

International Mr. Leather Official Website:

http://www.imrl.com/

On the bottom half between the flag and the dates of Pletzke’s life is a faded portrait style picture printed on fabric of Pletzke. It is about one and a half feet by one foot with a one-inch black border around it. In this picture Pletzke is wearing a light blue button up shirt. On the other side of the dates the is second faded picture, but this one captures a group of twenty men in dressed in white uniform with the title “Bulldog’s” printed on it. These men seem to be part of a softball/baseball team. This picture has the same one-inch black border as the first picture.

Finally, in the bottom right hand corner there is a typed letter printed on to white fabric and attached to a vibrant pink fabric, giving the letter a small border. It is titled “The True Saga of Bulletwoman”.

The True Saga of Bulletwoman

This passage not only characterizes Donald J. Pletzke and explains the “bulletwoman” persona, but also ties in all other aspects of the quilt.  This passage explains the types of communities that Pletzke was a part of; the leathermen community which was presented expressed through the first white shirt and the black vest, the softball team community that was conveyed by the blue jersey and the faded team picture, and the homosexual community in Atlanta, which was presented by the image of the flag and the bulletwoman pin. The passage is broken up into five different sections. The first gives background on Pletzke and how he made it onto the Armory Bullets softball team. It also explains how he got his first nickname as Nurse Bullet. The next section reveals that after being late to one bowling match with his team, Pletzke nickname was then demoted to Bulletwoman. The following two paragraphs recount Bulletwoman’s first gay parade. By stating “Hail, Bulletwoman, king and queen of Atlanta” as the final sentence, the author of the passage preaches Donald J. Pletzke’s story in honorable acclaim. While there are some grammatical errors in the passage, it flows perfectly with all other facets on the AIDS quilt tying it together as a coherent memorializing piece.

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