As you can tell by this website, I am a big proponent of recognizing the so called crafts as art forms. But what about recognition in the formal sense. Can crochet really be a work of art? It all depends on how you define art. I believe that a lot of the argument stems from the fact that many people don’t accept that the word art can have more than one definition. We readily accept that other words, like review have more than one meaning. So why not art? It is mainly a line in the sand. The art aficionados, intelligentsia, and most of all the high end museums and collectors want to be able to have the last word. When asked how the various incarnations of Startrek qualified Gene Roddenberry used to say, “It’s not Startrek until I say it’s Startrek.” In a way, those powers at the top want to be able to say when something can be called art.
But artists are always pushing the envelope, questioning what it is that defines art. Women artists, in particular often approach the question, “What is Art?” by questioning what it has to be made of. Judy Chicago explored ceramics and embroidery in her feminist installations in the 1960s and continues to do so today in other media. Young artists today are crossing that line, too.
The one line that is most difficult to cross it the monumental element of high art. For centuries, if it wasn’t oil on canvas, then it had to be marble or bronze. And it had to be large. Thus, monumental, large and built to last. Today, we see many other media recognized in art, from acrylic sculptured to video films.
Fiber art is a little more problematic. It can be made large, but it can be very labor intensive. Making a textile last takes a great deal of care, too. A few monumental textile pieces have lasted through the ages. The Bayeux Tapestry (c.1070) is one which has survived, probably because it was in storage for many years and because it was usually displayed only once a year in the Bayeux Cathedral, for which it was named.
Today, young artists are still challenging the definition of art. And crochet is among the textile art forms being used to cross the boundaries and question our cultural and aesthetic values through art. Olek, a New York artist, very active in the Occupy Wall Street movement, has used yarn bombing as an art form. Particularly notable was her yarn bombing of the Wall Street Bull sculpture, which is so symbolic of New York Stock Market and all it stands for.
Across the Atlantic, Joana Vasconcelos, a French artist who now lives in Portugal, mixes crochet, hand knitting, manufactured knit fabric, and various other fabrics, even feathers, with steel and ceramics. She has shown her work at Versailles, Lisbon, Venice, London, Budapest, and the list goes on.
In Japan, one of my favorites, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, created large scale crocheted nets for a major art show in Japan. After the art work was taken over by some rambunctious children, with her blessing, she and her husband decided her art work should be for everyone. The developed a company that designs playgrounds, as well as helping to produce Toshiko’s large scale art installations for gallery and museum shows.
Check out the video of the kids playing on the crocheted networks, tunnels, and hanging globes. I’ve never seen so much joy! I loved watching them navigate the tunnels by standing on each others shoulders, seeing how they helped the younger children along to the different levels, and even some parents were letting infants crawl on the lower levels. The children became a part of the art work.
These are just a few of the artists who are showing us how to make our craft into art. It is only a taste. So many other artists are doing, wearable art, toys, and jewelry, as well as gallery art. For an excellent collection of interviews with crochet artists go to Kathryn Vercello’s website: Crochet Concupiscence. http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/about/ Please post links to some of your favorite crochet or textile artist!
PS: I hope the lack of visuals in this blog are not discouraging. Most of the images in the links I have noted are copyrighted. I wanted to respect that. For a magazine or professional article, I would take the time to request permissions. But blogs have to be put out there pretty quickly. So, here are the links again.
Judy Chicago website: http://www.judychicago.com/contact.php
Website for the Bayeux Tapestry museum in Reading, UK (a replica) http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/Index.htm
Olek’s website: http://agataolek.com/home.html
Joanna Vasconcelos images: http://lovelytextiles.blogspot.com/2009/02/joana-vasconcelos.html
Joana Vasconcelos’ website: http://www.joanavasconcelos.com/menu_en.aspx
Images: Toshiko Horiuchi https://www.google.com/search?q=crochet+art+Toshiko&hl=en&client=firefox-beta&hs=mJE&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=Y3JOUI-VNqLt0gGqoYHgBw&ved=0CCQQsAQ&biw=1260&bih=613
Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam and husband Charles Macadam’s company website: http://netplayworks.com/NetPlayWorks/Projects/Projects.html
Colossal Art and Visual Ingenuity, Crochet Playgrounds by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam,
Crochet Artist Interviews by Kathryn Vercillo: http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/about/