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Women’s Work

            The common thread, literally, that I observed in many presentations is the reference to, and use of, textiles and fabric. Whether it’s Robbi Joy Eklow’s quilts, the beadwork of Teri Greves, or the clever embroidery of Jennifer Bockelman with thread and hair, women continue to take traditional homestead skills and spin them into new creative forms of expression.

            Back in the day, these domestic skills were considered, respectfully, “women’s work” because they were skills that women could attend to while they cared for the child and supplied them with nourishment, and the men would go out and hunt and make nude oil paintings.

            But these crafts were extremely valuable to a group and good skills like sewing could have been an opportunity for women to hold some power in that community. Today women continue to manage the storyline of how these tools and materials will be used to shape their individual stories. Using fabric Faith Ringgold made political statements in the 1970s and in the 1990s anonymous knitting, called yarn-bombing, began covering public spaces. These “soft-punches” to the system appeal to many across gender and more often there are men contributing to this form of expression. Someday maybe it will all be just art.

Craft vs fine-art Crochet

            My second observation was the continued connection to the artistic principles and values associated with mid-western art and American Realism best demonstrated in Hannah Blomstedt’s essay, and Roberta Barnes, Moving Day painting. I don’t believe all art has to be groundbreaking when I look at Barnes’ painting I feel like I’m in Nebraska.

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