Fiber as art, graffiti and social/political commentary

For those of us in our 40s and older, this lifetime has seen some remarkable upheaval, with the old being thrown out for the new, and the new often having a very short lifespan. I remember when the fax machine replaced telex, when my desk typewriter was booted (not to be rebooted) for a PC, and when I stopped buying record albums to record onto cassette tapes to listen to in my car and made the switch to CDs. CDs have now entered into the realm of the passé, with digital downloads edging them to the music market’s periphery.

Like vinyl records, knitting saw a downturn with the generation that viewed these things as outdated, no longer cutting-edge – not the latest and greatest. But also like vinyl, knitting came back with a vengeance. Maybe out of a sense of nostalgia (or “retromania” – for the pops and crackles of the record album, or the feel of that hand-made blanket from our grandmothers – or the distaste for newer, colder musical delivery methods or mass-produced clothing lines, we’ve once again embraced what had recently been dismissed as uncool.

And like vinyl, which has a long history in the urban underground, fiber arts are now moving from a city hipster pastime to take a larger stage. Who in the world hasn’t seen images of the throngs of pink knitted hats in the U.S. capitol? But besides helping us wear our social/political leanings on our sleeves (or heads, in this case), knitting and crochet is also being used by artists to create provocative pieces.

A friend shared this wonderful piece on on Facebook about artists who use knitting and crochet as “boundary-pushing, politically charged mediums.” I’ve been lucky enough to spot some works in the wild in Manhattan by the artist Olek, who is featured in this article. It’s quite a thrill to come across these vivid pieces among the drab grey city streets. I was dying to touch them, but I resisted out of reverence for the art.

img_0366img_0187Missing from the artsy article are two fantastic fiber artists I discovered through the Wassaic Project Festival, an annual summer event that features visual artists’ works, dance and musical performance, and short films. One of the artists is Jeila Gueramian. I wanted to live inside her installations – sort of granny square gone amok meets Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Again, the desire to touch everything is strong, so I had to keep my hands behind my back.


And the other is Ben Cuevas. Though I missed his exhibit in Wassaic, his knitted skeleton and collection of other anatomical knits are unique and striking.

While I need the structure of a pattern and thorough instructions to create my knitted pieces, these folks are using the medium to let their creativity to wild. Something to aspire to.




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