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!