Monday, April 14, 2014

Juxtaposition Makes for Beautiful Art

The Fine Art of Crochet: Innovative
Works from 20 Contemporary
Gwen Blakley Kinsler,
 published by Authorhouse, 2013
 and available here on Amazon
Female artists are still vastly underrepresented in the fine arts world (by approximately 3:1) and still represent bargain shopping at auction.* It is a rather amazing fact, although not surprising considering all the time and artistic ground women need to make up in the male-dominated fine arts legacy.

So it is with a wide, satisfied smile on my face that I provide a review of Gwen Blakley Kinsler’s The Fine Art of Crochet: Innovative Works from 20 Contemporary Artists. Kinsler, the founder of The Crochet Guild of America and an accomplished artist and designer in her own right, has curated a simply fantastic group of artists in this book that celebrates, through each artists’ selected works, the crochet art movement from 1915 to the present. (Full disclosure: Kinsler interviewed me in spring 2013 for Crochet World Magazine’s Talking Crochet newsletter. However, as will be demonstrated below, my interest in and appreciation of fiber art was well established prior to her interview, so this review is conflict-of-interest free).

Kinsler immediately grabs the reader with her pick of cover art - Bonnie Meltzer’s Global Warming is not only visually arresting but also timely. Kinsler then opens the book with a brief introduction and background of the crochet art movement. In the opening quote, she lays the juxtaposition groundwork by quoting Bruce Hoffman, Director of the Snyderman Gallery, on the emergence of crochet in contemporary art, and then writes that “Crochet is a craft whose time has come.”  Some aspect of “craft” in female voice/“art” in male voice is a running theme (either stated or unstated) in almost every artists' work in this collection, which includes four men and 16 women. Some artists, such as Georgina Valverde, Leslie Pontz, Carol Hummel, Pate Conaway, Nathan Roberts and Kathleen Holmes, openly explore the link between gender, craft and art. Other artists may be silent on the explicit link, yet conveyed to Kinsler the connection they feel with the women who handed down the crochet legacy that informs their work. Yet others, like Arline Fisch and Bonnie Meltzer, were among many female pioneers in the artistic crochet movement in the 60s and 70s.  One minor point: I do wish Kinsler would have included the year the works were created in the individual artworks’ captions; it would not only have been informative, but also provide a link to the fact that some of these artists have been working with crochet techniques and the fiber medium for several decades.

Paper Lanterns, Arline Fisch, from
 Arline Fisch: Creatures from the Deep
I am fortunate to live in a part of the country that recognizes, explores and celebrates the fiber arts, for I’ve seen two of the included artists’ work in separate local major museum exhibitions in the last four years. I can state unequivocally that Arline Fisch created a whole new world with her crochet and knit pieces in the Creatures from the Deep exhibit, and one of the pieces from the collection is included in Kinsler’s book. Fisch’s talk connected with the exhibit was a watershed moment for me, as she discussed her use of non-traditional materials. Additionally, one cannot think of fiber artists and not also think of Jo Hamilton, whose incredible “crochet painted” portraits were included in the BAM Biennial 2012: High Fiber Diet exhibit, which I also had the pleasure of viewing.  

I am thrilled to have added The Fine Art of Crochet to my personal library. The artists’ respective inspiration and art will no doubt inform and inspire me. Kinsler has added a much needed female voice to the male-heavy fine arts conversation. I know which works included in the book are my personal favorites, and I urge everyone to seek out this book and find your own unique inspiration within its pages.

* For more on these topics, see Redressing the Balance: Women in the Art World, and In the Art World, Women on the Verge, two of many, many online articles.

I'll be participating again this year, blogging up a storm for an entire week.

Friday, April 11, 2014

All Quiet on the Pacific Northwest Front This Friday

Spring continues to unfold beautifully here - with temperatures in the 50s and 60s (farenheit) and plenty of sunshine, the blooms are incredible (taken with cell phone camera several days ago).

My time to enjoy it has been limited because I continue to be in project mode: here's the latest tasty plate of yarn I received that will become a published project:

Love, love, love this color combination. That's Rowan Yarn's Fine Art in the back, and it's a wonderful sockweight blend of merino, mohair and silk. Here's a closer look at this colorway, #303 waxwing:

The color swatch on the Rowan site has a fair amount of lighter green and pink showing, but the actual skeins tell the real story. Cannot wait to dig in.

Additionally, the 5th annual Knit and Crochet Blog Week has just been announced - it will be taking place May 12 - 18th. 

This will be the fourth year that I'll be participating (and if you want to see posts from previous years, just look at the top of my labels cloud at the bottom of the blog and click on anything that has "KCBWDAY" in it). I may just do a leeeeetle personal review; I cannot believe I've been actively blogging for this long. 

You know, that hot air and all.

Now definitely head on over to Andrea at Wisdom Begins in Wonder, where she manages to blog every week. How she juggles work, farm animals, kids, and yarn is beyond me.

Monday, April 7, 2014

(Just Another) Melange Monday

Hello everyone from a simply gorgeous, sunny spring day here in this particular corner of the Pacific Northwest. I'm starting a new series of Monday posts. While I don't know if they will appear every Monday, I do know that I plan to blog (maybe) about fiber as well as other non-fiber things I've either previously completed or on which I'm currently working, and of course, any other topic(s) (non-design/art related) that may strike my fancy because, hey, it's my blog, and I'll write what I want to. 

Gratuitous George Bailey photo.

I have been without a personal computer since mid-January of this year (I short-circuited my former laptop - don't ask). I cannot tell you how great it feels to once again have a home computer - I feel like I've been liberated. While I've managed to communicate on a somewhat irregular basis since my technological fiasco, taking a look around the blog tells me that I need to update things in a fairly major way - which I'll get to in due time.

However, initially I want to post photos of the two paintings I completed in late fall of last year as part of my Romantique collection. I made a promise to myself at the beginning of the year that I would work on painting more in 2014, and these two canvases remind me why I made that promise. There is something about the flow I achieve whenever I paint that just works. There is an unmediated blissful connection between my paint brushes and the canvas that is indescribable. I can lose all sense of time when I am painting - it's just me, the brush, the paint and the canvas. And even though these two works were specifically created with the collection's theme in mind, there was still a high level of freedom in each painting session. 

Ode to Demeter
Acrylic on Canvas
18 x 34
October, 2013

Snacks in the Underworld
Acrylic on Canvas
12 x 24
October, 2013

This isn't to say that I don't find freedom in fiber design (because I do!), but there is a certain amount of rote work between design and finished project that tends to detract ever so slightly from the bliss (but only a little - I'm still loving designing and am definitely not complaining).

Along this more artistic line, I'll be reviewing Gwen Blakley Kinsler's The Fine Art of Crochet next Monday. The book is on a blog tour, and you can and should check out the schedule here and read what other reviewers had/have to say about it.

So I'll end today's post with some of the fiber currently on my hooks:

See a color trend here?

Until next time -