Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hang on

I think that it’s really difficult to get the system of galleries, curators, critics, and all the rest to look seriously at artwork that is made with roots in the craft or folk tradition.

Two things have to happen. The first one is that the artists working with ‘low’ materials like fabric and stitch have to raise their own bar and make really challenging fine art. The other thing is that curators are going to have to be more open-minded.

Yes, the boundaries are changing and more fine art is being made using metaphorically rich domestic techniques than before but when we consider the huge numbers of hard working women artists who are still being left out of art history, well it’s just not fair.


  1. "have to raise their own bar and make really challenging fine art" - yes indeed. It's hard for many curators to distinguish between quality textile art and what I call "giggly craft" -- people who want to make cute Amy Butlerish things and call themselves artists. This is such a dilemna, as everyone's creativity should be celebrated.
    You're asking some challenging questions in this and the previous post - keep writing, I'm eager to hear more of your thoughts.

  2. I was at the AGO a few days ago and saw a piece "by" Mike Kelly. It consisted of 6 - 8 small crochetted blankets - lap or baby blankets - and a couple of crochetted pillows. They were stitched together and placed directly on the floor in the form of a bed, pillows at the head. The artist did not make the articles but rather found them at various second hand and Goodwill type stores. The piece is intended to raise the issue you are writing about here - why women's hand work is trivialized, and how it is distinguished from "fine" art.

    It was certainly provocative and started quite an in depth conversation between my daughter and myself. I'm still trying to decide how I feel it. It is an installation by a man using women's craft to make his point. I have no real trouble with his challenge to this long-standing issue, but I do have a problem with the AGO giving such a large area in their newly opened contemporary gallery to this particular work rather than directly supporting and exhibiting the work of insightful, creative and masterful women, and therefore making some real progress on the issue itself.

  3. Well said Micaela. I've seen this kind of rip off happen too. About two years ago a respected (male) artist in Sudbury showed his latest work - acrylic paintings made on top of women's hand work purchased in thrift stores. I attended the talk and he explained that he was using the cloth and the embroidery and the crochet lace in his work for its texture and because it also carried with it the feelings of home and domesticity that he was addressing with his current work. OK, I understand all that, but if a woman tried to show the same things in an art gallery they would have no respect. In order for a woman to use domestic media and techniques in a fine art context, she has to go much closer to the edge than than these male artists have in order to get any exhibition space in a gallery.
    I am glad that the AGO has put the crochet work in their contemporary gallery. It's a baby step. At least now more people will think about it in a fine art context.


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx