KEENE VALLEY - One Keene Valley resident's run-in with the Border Patrol recently made for some hilarious material on Comedy Central.
The Colbert Report, a spin-off of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, recently featured a lampooned expose of Jerilea Zempel's eventful summer vacation.
On her way back from an art festival in New Brunswick, Zempel was stopped at a Maine border crossing. She suspects it was her well-used passport that may have raised a flag.
"I've been to a lot of places in the last nine years," said Zempel, including Australia, Mexico, Turkey, as well as other countries in Africa, Central and South America, and Europe.
With suspicions raised, agents searched her vehicle, including her cell phone, laptop, and artist's sketchbook. It was there that the Border Patrol found drawings of one of her most recent projects, a crocheted cover for a full-size SUV.
"I wanted to turn an oversize, macho, gas-guzzling vehicle into a technological ghost by shrouding it in a white, fuzzy cover reminiscent of women's handiwork from another time, another place," Zempel said.
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Thinking the sketches might be valuable intellectual property, Border Patrol agents detained Zempel for an hour, questioning her about her visit to Canada and whether she was engaging in copyright infringement. After confirming her status as an artist and university professor, she was finally allowed back into her home country.
Zempel was contacted by Colbert Report writers in mid-October after her story recieved attention from local media. Producers came to her New York City apartment to interview and film her, and the segment aired on the show's Dec. 3 episode.
"I had very little to do with how it was put together," she said.
Knowing the show's style of poking fun at its subjects, Zempel had some fear of how she would be portrayed.
"I was a little nervous," said Zempel. "I wasn't sure what they would do with me."
However, she was pleasantly surprised to see that the show did not make fun of her or her work in a negative way.
If anything, the segment provided national exposure for her artistry, which often features instruments of war juxtaposed with traditional domestic mediums such as knitting, apholstery, and even cookies.
"I've been getting e-mails from old high school friends," she said. "And several relatives I didn't know I had."
As an arts professor at Fordham University, Zempel spends much of the year in the New York City area, but maintains her studio in Keene Valley.
"I take great inspiration from the Adirondacks and from the craft traditions of the Adirondacks," she said.
Zempel credited several fellow Adirondackers with helping her finish the SUV-cozy project, which she titled "Homeland Security Blanket" in honor of her stop at the border.
A video clip of Zempel's appearance on the Colbert Report can be found on the show's Web site, www.colbertnation.com.