Fiber Art: Colorful and Political

If you’re a fiber addict, you might well be aware how the “womanly arts” have been used for political and social purposes (e.g., knitting in support of a country’s war, bringing attention to a public problem, etc.). Tonight (May 11), PBS showed Episode VIII of “Craft in America” titled Threads. Its website describes the episode as follows:

For as long as mankind has lived together in groups, interlacing, weaving, sewing and all manner of work that starts with the humble thread have brought physical comfort and served as a means of expression. Threads explores the needle arts, including storytelling through quilts and textiles that speak to the creativity of the human spirit.

Faith Ringgold, Randall Darwall, Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, and Terese Agnew– nationally acclaimed fiber artists who through story-quilts, fiber collages and woven textiles go beyond pure technique to tell us fictions and truths that pierce our sensibilities and hold secrets to the history of this country stretching from coast to coast.

Not surprising given my old life as a political science professor, I was particularly struck by the influence of socio-economic-political issues reflected in the work of Ringgold (quilter and writer), Jimenez Underwood (weaver) and Agnew (quilter). Ringgold’s art is both political and colorful and, reflecting the African-American experience – has amazing social significance. Much of Jiminez Underwood’s art focuses on “border” (between Mexico and the U.S.) issues – very powerful. Agnew’s “Portrait of a Textile Worker” is not to be missed. Though I sat in awe of the work of all the artists featured on this episode, I think Angew’s “Portrait” was my favorite.

My laptop was nearby when I watched the show, so I found the websites of the featured authors to share with others: Faith Ringgold; Randall Darwall (dyer and weaver – nb: I encountered difficulty opening his site); Consuelo Jimenez Underwood; and Terese Agnew. (Also, here’s a link to Craft in America’s webpage with live links to videos of previous shows. Several fiber artists have been guests, including Gustine Atlas, Deborah Cross, Pat Courtney Gold, Mary Jackson, Hystercine Rankin, Billie Ruth Sudduth, Dona Look, Jim Bassler, Teri Greeves, and Lisa Sorrell.)

If you have a chance to see this show and/or read about these fiber artists, I hope you find this as interesting as I did!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Crocheting, Dyeing, Fibers, Knitting, Other Fiber Arts, Weaving and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Fiber Art: Colorful and Political

  1. I agree … it was powerful. They were all amazing … !


  2. eparke20 says:

    This art quilt by Agnew absolutely took my breath away when I watched that show! She is one dedicated artist!


  3. handstitch says:

    I don’t have PBS but will search for free downloads. Ironically, I just finished watching an ancient Chinese series about a weaver, at end of Ming Dynasty, who became a dyer, a wood maker, spinner, and later cotton grower…and taught people–young and old–in a small town to spin and weave so that can survive but most importantly people in poverty may afford the fabrics to make clothes for their families.. Sadly, merchant was still priced the clothes at high prices–if they don’t, no one would buy the clothes produced by the Mongolian government weavers. How ironically different in time. Today’s giant corporations in the U.S. drive out small business by low pricing and quality. People are willing to buy cheaper stuff at Walmart, knowing full well they aren’t as well made. Yet, they are okay with getting what they pay for. Sorry for off-topic, Karen…your post got me replaying what I saw 😀


  4. sandiart says:

    Hi Karen
    Thank you for your visits to my blog, nice to meet you. I need to set some time aside to have a nosey around yours.
    xx Sandi


  5. And Darwall’s colors … wow. His link doesn’t work but I incuded it anyway – hoping that once his site is repaired people will have the address. Thanks for reading my blog.


  6. Thanks for letting me know about the links. I fixed the Agnew link, but Darwall’s didn’t work for me last night either. This leaves me to assume that his site is currently on the fritz. (Wait until you see his dye work, though – amazing.) And you will see I added a pic of Agnew’s work … I don’t know why I didn’t do that when I wrote it — tired probably!


  7. Curls & Q says:

    WOW! Loved Underwood! Will have to see if I can get the program. Two links didn’t work; Darwall and Agnew. 8-( My husband’s great-great grandmother was a factory weaver back in New Hampshire. We watched a show about those factory weavers and they mentioned that each weaver had a stool custom made for them so they could sit for long hours as a time. I’ve been wishing since then that we would miraculously find her stool! 😎


  8. I watched this last night and it was magnificent! I, too, loved the Portrait of a Textile Worker — all of those little labels! And I loved the weavings that featured the safety pins — magnificent and clever! Thanks for giving the URLs for the various artists. I wanted to explore their work even more.


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