First, the facts:
Title: Knitting Art: 150 Innovative Works from 18 Contemporary Artists
Author: Karen Searle
Published by: Voyageur Press, 2008
1. Introduction; 2. Kathryn Alexander; 3. Jeung-Hwa Park; 4. Laura Kamian; 5. Ilisha Helfman; 6. Debbie New; 7. Katharine Cobey; 8. Donna L. Lish; 9. Lindsay Obermeyer; 10. Carolyn Halliday; 11. Reina Mia Brill; 12. Adrienne Sloane; 13. Lisa Anne Auerbach; 14. Anna Maltz; 15. Mark Newport; 16. Janet Morton; 17. John Krynick; 18. Barb Hunt; 19. Karen Searle by Kari Cornell
The In-Depth Look:
The first thing you need to know is that this is NOT a knitting book. It’s an Art Book.
That is, it’s a book about artists who use knitting as their medium–not paint, not marble, not clay– but knitting.
The author starts the book with a quote: “Symbolism can be read into each stitch–it is a loop without beginning or end. Interconnected loops can be a metaphor for life and human connectedness.”
She goes on to say that “Art knitters are part of a broader field of artists who use fiber and fabric as an artistic medium. … Knitting’s versatility appeals to artists who may use the craft to honor the history and tradition of women’s work or to raise questions about femininity, masculinity, and domesticity. A conceptual work can evoke knitting’s associations with adornment and the body, memories of comfort and warmth, and expressions of love and caring. In a detailed, or large-scale work, knitting can raise questions about time and productivity and how those are valued in Western society.”
Phew! That’s quite a task for one book.
Each chapter is devoted to one fiber artist. They are in-depth looks at who they are, and what their artistic vision is. How they started knitting. What they see as their artistic purpose. The political motivations behind their work. Their creativity. Whether you “get” their work or not, these profiles are fascinating. For example:
Janet Morton, who knitted a set of Work Socks for Patsy the Elephant says, “They are intended as a critique from my thoughts about the way we assert persona aesthetics onto nature and from my discomfort with the fact that exotic tropical animals are forced into artificial environments in Nordic climates.”
Lindsay Obermeyer says, “My Woman’s Work series speaks to the need to find a balance between work and children. Once I became a parent, I could no longer spend long tracks of time at my embroidery table. Teaching, trips to the doctor, basketball practice, music lessons, etc. pulled me in a zillion directions a day. Rather than let the stress overwhelm me, I found a way to make art that allowed me to juggle all the other demands.”
Some of the artists are ones I’ve “met” before, in other books, or other articles. One, I’ve actually met in person, at a local craft show a year or so ago. (Imagine my surprise when I saw her work in here!) Many of them, though, are artists whose work I’ve never seen. Some, I like more than others. Some are just too avant garde for me, whereas some just blow me away with their creativity. (Actually, they all blow me away with their creativity, it’s just that I appreciate some of the end results more than others.)
One nice touch? Karen Searle, the author of the book, is herself an artist, and she gets a chapter of her own, but hers was written by Kari Cornell–thereby working around that awkward, narcissistic “I” but still making sure the author’s work is seen alongside all her compatriots.
What makes this book interesting, though, is that every one of these very different artists uses knitting as their main means of expression. Handknit. Machine knit. Colors. Monochromatic. Yarn. Wire. Mesh. Sculpture. Two-dimensional. Three-dimensional. Performance art. The artistic vision is radically different from artist to artist, but they are all tied together by the fact that they knit.
I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty inspiring. I’m one of those philistines who often doesn’t “get” art, so some of what’s in here is just beyond me. I have no plans on knitting a piece of art for the local art gallery, any more than I plan to enter my baking into any competitions on the Food Network … but knowing that people can and do stretch the boundaries is important to know. Reading about each artist, and hearing him or her talk about their work, can’t help but make you look at your knitting and your world just a little bit differently. Suddenly, that sock isn’t just a tie to the past, it’s a tie to the world of Knitting Possibility as Seen in Art.
This book is available for $23.10 at Amazon.com.
This review copy was kindly donated by Voyageur Press. Thank you!