Visual Arts

Gallery Hop: Amid resurgence of knitting, artists explore yarn's possibilities

It's What's for Dinner, 2010: Knitted yarn and found object by Stacey Chinn
It's What's for Dinner, 2010: Knitted yarn and found object by Stacey Chinn

Even before the economy tanked, do-it-yourself trends were on the rise, with crafts such as knitting experiencing a resurgence of popularity. and other Web sites specializing in DIY trends began popping up; knitting groups threatened to become the new book clubs; and specialty craft stores, such as South Limestone's ReBelle, opened their doors to a younger, hipper crowd.

The revival of knitting as a popular pastime could be attributed to anything as simple as the desire to save money or as complex as the need to fashion some slice of control in an out-of-control world.

Regardless of the reason behind the DIY boom, many national and regional artists are capitalizing on the accessible nature of knitwear to bridge the art-craft divide.

Andrea Fischer, director of Transylvania University's Morlan Gallery, takes advantage of this trend in Dropping Stitches: Knitting Trends in Contemporary Art, an exhibit focusing on the diverse uses of knitting as art.

The show visually entices viewers on several levels, including sparking insights into socio-political issues and a raw celebration of the materiality.

Canadian artist Barbara Hunt's work is about the devastation of war. In her piece antipersonnel, she has knitted dozens of soft, pink, cuddly re-creations of land mines, a juxtaposition of color and materials that is disarming to the viewer.

"Hunt's work is a great example of the subversive power of the media," Fischer says.

In her artist's statement, Hunt says: "Bandages for soldiers were once hand-knitted, and women still knit socks for soldiers overseas. Thus, knitting functions as a metaphor for recuperation, protection and healing. In antipersonnel, I use these associations to contradict the abuse of power and the use of violence, transforming a destructive object into one that can do no harm."

Lacy Jane Roberts is another artist who uses textiles to inform the political. Her sprawling, metallic installation is one of the cornerstones of the exhibit, resembling a large razor-wire fence that has organically spread out of control.

Others, including Lexington artist Stacey R. Chinn, are more playful with the materials, creating works that visually couple soft, colorful yarn with found objects, such as a water spigot that spouts textile "water."

Even a Transylvania campus-based knitting group got in on the action with In the Loop, a suspended installation of knitted sea creatures that creates a surreal underwater seascape in one corner of the gallery.

"What's wonderful is that knitting draws new people into art, people who would not consider themselves artists," Fischer says of the campus knitting group's entry and the exhibit's potential appeal to new audiences.

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