Magnified Vulnerability: Handicraft in Art and Popular Culture
Shannon Stratton, Chicago, IL.
Director of Programming, ThreeWalls
Independent Curator and Writer
The following text is apart the author's body of work focused on curating and writing about trends for referencing and utilizing fiber-craft traditions in popular culture and art. The portion of this text about Luanne Martineau, was excerpted and published as apart for her residency exhibition at ThreeWalls in Chicago, Illinois. Still an aspect of an on-going project, the author plans to continue to realize small curatorial projects in partnership with her writing.
MADE WITH LOVE
Years ago my ex- husband's grandmother made me a vest. A cherry red acrylic, hand-knitted vest with no buttons, that was probably too boxy and too large for my frame. I loved it. It traveled with me when I moved and I kept it when the husband and I split. It sounds like it should be well-worn, shabby from love, but it is quite pristine. I have probably worn it twice. In fact my roommate insisted I part with it when we helped one another clean out overrun closets. I stubbornly refused. It meant something to me, in part because it was made for me (and I really had quite a lot of affection for Margaret, the maker), and because something made it the last vestige of the truly, genuine hand made article. It was a simple pattern, completely outside of any existing fashion, popular or thrift-store chic, and it was made by someone unaffected by any trend in making or expressive arts.
At the same time, the vest was not made out of necessity. Therefore, its existence struck me as poignant. It passed all the emotional tests to be awarded the label 'genuine', a term that (while being bandied about with 'authenticity' and 'sincerity), as a result of its prominence in art, might be on a slippery path to dishonor.
But I like poignancy, and pathos. Not to be confused with nostalgic sentiments, because what I see as poignant is not necessarily the same thing as that which is longing for or reminiscent of the past. And although I see it as a response to modernism and the heroic, in many ways the recent focus on sincerity, authenticity and weakness simply proposes another kind of utopia, one in which the fittest might be the most (emotionally) cunning.
Its difficult to define the poignancy of the awkward, but if I had to give an example, it would be of similar hand-knit vests that I come across at the Salvation Army, garishly colored and awkwardly designed, that appear to have never been worn (let alone looked at), and promptly pitched into the donation bin. These sweater-vests and crew-necks that have clean white labels sewn into the neck with "made with love by Gramma" in cursive embroidery. I buy them now and then--when I feel particularly bad for them--and then tuck them away in my closet, wearing them occasionally and exposing myself to such ridicule as my roommate saying I look like "the 4th grade paste-eater".