Craft/Work’s culminating exhibition opened just over a week ago to an uproarious crowd, and while every single work of art displayed deserves acclaim, one of its pieces has been in the spotlight more than its compatriots. For reasons. Reasons that give me feelings. Feelings about Craft/Work. Attend:
Untitled (Homicide Quilt), textiles-based collective El Stitch y Bitch’s entry to the Craft/Work show, is a map of Chicago’s neighborhoods in which the names of the more than 400 homicide victims from 2013 have been delicately hand embroidered. Some neighborhoods are predictably fuller than others: Englewood and areas of the West side are so saturated that the stitching climbs over itself. Individual names are obscured, leaving instead a soft, colorful and discordantly painful mass. Other neighborhoods are entirely empty. The piece is a visual reminder of the violent reality of the city in which we live. But it is also a testament to the fact that material matters. The juxtaposition of the soft, domestic, feminine, materials provide stark contrast to how we are accustomed to consuming this kind of information. It makes it personal, it brings it home. These are no longer names on a list, in the newspaper, on TV. They were not typed by a computer or a machine. They were rendered by hand. And we relate to them differently because of it.
The quilt may exist independently of Craft/Work but we have evolved alongside one another. Craft/Works main goals were to expand access to the conversation about Fine Art and Craft: why and how we make what we make and also why and how we look at what we look at. For example, Untitled (Homicide quilt) is not functional bedding nor was it made with traditional functionality in mind. It’s art: its intended purpose was to be viewed by a critical audience and to have it’s infographical agenda read in a new and challenging way. But it’s also a quilt and the fact that it’s a quilt defines how we, as the audience, view it.
In many ways, the quilt - and, in fact, El Stitch y Bitch collective - is a microcosm of what we’ve been trying to achieve with Craft/Work. The collective is explicitly a crafting group that creates textiles both recreationally and as fine art. The process of hand making is one of action, thought, tactile experience, and emotional processing. By working and talking and making together they, and we, relate individually to our community and, as an extension, to the world. We are able to become more than the sum of our parts. Hearing from members of El Stitch y Bitch Collective as they embroidered their neighborhood afforded the entire Craft/Work community insight into the gravity of their chosen task. We were able to experience the process as well as the finished product; an addition which infinitely enriched our conversations.
I am overwhelmingly proud of the entire Craft/Work project and am so grateful for all the attention and appreciation we’ve received since the show has been open.
-Nora Renick Rinehart for Craft/Work
Follow Craft/Work online to find times to check out the exhibit! On display at Beauty and Brawn Gallery and Think Space in Logan Square, Chicago, until May 31st.
Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook