Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate, let’s take a look at some of the works made by a few of the women artists featured in Crafting America, on view at Crystal Bridges now through May 31, 2021.
Marguerite Wildenhain, a woman of Jewish descent, fled Europe in 1933 during the rise of the Nazis and came to the United States, eventually settling in California. She had trained at the Bauhaus, the legendary art, design, and architecture school in Germany, and brought with her an extensive knowledge of ceramics. Through her teaching at Pond Farm, an artist colony and school she later established, she profoundly shaped the development of twentieth-century pottery in America.
A group of Native women created this quilt to honor veterans from their community who served in the United States military during World Wars I and II. The quilters, living in the Oklahoma towns of Seminole and Hitchita, stitched the names of Native veterans within cross-shaped designs in the squares. Some names are accompanied by the place where the service member was killed or are marked with a gold star, distinguishing those who sacrificed their lives.
The women stitched their names into squares along one side of the quilt. Their communal recognition heightens the sense that each person—each contribution and sacrifice—is interconnected.
“I have found myself drawn back to the traditional crafts of my tribe as a powerful way to bring awareness to issues that affect Native people today.” – Shan Goshorn
Shan Goshorn mastered Cherokee basket-weaving techniques and modified traditional forms by weaving strips of paper printed with culturally loaded source material, such as maps and historical documents. For Commodity Products, Goshorn made baskets approximately the shape and size of cans and painted on beef, chicken, and pork labels from canned government rations issued to Native people dealing with food insecurity. The combination of the woven basket forms—traditionally used for food gathering—and the visual language of industrialized, United States government-controlled food distribution is meant to be jarring and unsettling. Her trenchant objects often explore the gap between the popular image of Native Americans and their actual daily experience.
Sabrina Gschwandtner explores new relationships between technology and textile-based media in her 16-millimeter “film quilt”—based on a traditional design and made from salvaged celluloid of craft-related documentaries—and a moving-image counterpart entitled Hands at Work Video. The video is constructed to resemble the composition of the quilt. It consists of found footage of amateur and professional craftswomen performing textile-related processes associated with overlooked histories of female creativity and labor: weaving, knitting, sewing, dyeing, spinning, and working at machines. The artist engages in her own digital version of patchwork, splicing existing content into an intricate montage. With these works, Gschwandtner shows how craft continues to reflect its various pasts, always renewed through fresh understanding.
Ebony G. Patterson combines handmade and found elements that weave together elements of beauty and pain. She has been particularly inspired by roadside shrines dedicated to people who have been violently killed. Patterson hopes that we will spend time with her work—to think, reflect, and feel. “I would like to think that my audience comes to look,” she has said. “That they don’t come to simply see.”
Treaty with the Yankton Sioux 1837 comes from Gina Adams’s Broken Treaty Quilts series, which addresses the United States government’s failure to uphold its agreements with Native American tribes. Adams stitched letters cut from calico fabrics on both the front and back of an antique quilt, using language directly from treaties Native American leaders were coerced or forced to sign. These documents, which were intentionally drafted at the expense of Native American nations, were filled with promises that US officials did not uphold. By addressing this painful history through quilting—symbolic of community, and a source of warmth—Adams offers a sense of comfort and underscores the deep, emotional register of this history.
According to a statement on her website, Gina says, “In storytelling, I am moved by a sense of discovery and connection, much of it deeply rooted in place and land. My life’s journey is about where the land, peoples, and stories come together. It is my wish that the viewer will add their own experience to my work.”
While Toshiko Takaezu was a multidisciplinary artist, her best-known works are enclosed ceramic forms, ranging in scale from the size of a hand to over six feet tall. She explored gestural splashes and layered veils of color like fellow artists Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, whose work is on view nearby in the Contemporary Art Gallery. “I didn’t want a flat surface to work on but a three-dimensional one,” Takaezu said.
Joyce Scott’s neckpiece “Danger Done” (pictured on right in the image above) reflects both her travels and longtime learning. To create the work, she used a Native American-derived peyote stitch and included cowrie shells, which were historically used as currency in Africa. According to the exhibition’s catalog Crafting America: Artists and Objects, 1940 to Now, “‘Danger Done’ is representative of the knowledge Scott has accrued through her explorations and represents her intent to always return to the place she calls home with the skills she believes will enrich and energize her community.”
Check out Scott’s Spotlight Talk with Crystal Bridges in the video below, led by Dr. Leslie King-Hammond:
Wisconsin-based artist Beth Lipman is well known for her detailed works made entirely of glass. Her sculptural practice explores aspects of material culture and deep time through still lives, site-specific installations, and photographs. In “Belonging(s)” (2020), Lipman responds to a group of eighteenth-century portraits of the Levy-Franks family attributed to Gerardus Duyckinck I (1695-1746) found in the Crystal Bridges collection. With the glass sculpture in the form of a traveling trunk and compiled with objects that could be associated with the Levy-Frankses’ trade and travel, Lipman addresses the theme of migration head-on. Learn more about Lipman’s work here.
See the work of these artists and more in Crafting America! Get your tickets here.