(left) Hillarey Dees, Sclerotinia Study Necklace, copper, sterling silver, wool. (right) Livia Martin, Broken Things (detail), silkscreen on plaster.
doing this is by engaging with tradition while remaining contemporary, either using traditional materials in a contemporary way, or using contemporary materials in a traditional way (or by using both traditional materials and processes to new aesthetic ends). One example of this is found in the partweaving, part-quilt tapestries of Arturo Sandoval. Rather than weaving natural fibers, his work is composed of materials such as microfiche and holographic film. From a distance Sandoval’s geometric abstracted tapestries appear to be computer motherboards, but a closer look reveals thousands of film frames stitched together with colored threads. The microfiche contains images of past print periodicals that are so small only the headlines can be read. This dual view provides a complex layering as the piece literally stitches inaccessible stories together while showing the containment of data in a computer. These quilts thus connect a process dating back to the first dynasty of Egypt to the technologies of the last century in a new composition.
In her series Broken Things, Livia Martin incorporates the concept of utility within craft by using vessels, such as teacups and bowls, but alters their forms in order to remove their functions. The works consist of highly polished plaster that mimic the more traditional surfaces of glazed porcelain; the result is that the forms appear as if they are melting, while the patterns remain unaltered. In this body of work, Martin questions the requirement of utility in craft as well as creates a visual dialogue to past craft practices. The “wearable art” pieces by Hillarey Dees use both traditional processes and craft materials in a contemporary aesthetic. Combining fiber and metal, her necklaces are inspired by nature. Dees’ work focuses on the craftsmanship, materials, and function of body adornment while exploring natural imagery of pods and cocoons to evoke the wonder of birth and death.
question of functionality remain integral aspects of the art of craft, but it is the attention given to detail and craftsmanship, and ultimately the artistic intention, that allows craft to go beyond these simplistic constraints. Given the long history of craft and its various definitions over time, artists will continue to redefine and recontextualize the meaning of craft in the future. However, as long as humans and stuff exist, the need for artists to manipulate this stuff into beautiful and interesting objects will persist. n Krystle Brewer is the Interim Executive Director of 108|Contemporary, whose craft-based artworks can be found at krystlebrewer.com.
Each of these artists demonstrates ways that craft and its practices are still vibrant in the art of today. The use of materials and the