Radical' art lands local woman on Colbert

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.

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