Forget about your wool scarf that your grandmother spent three months knitting for you. You may have lost it, got a new one but never told her (you left it at a friend’s and you will get it back next time you see him, right?). Or forget even about that scene stealer, highly feminized mesmerizingly installed Eva Hesse threaded rope installation you saw a few years ago at a gallery. These days the city is wrapped around queer threads–colorful, uncompromising and double stitched.
Curated by John Chaich, Queer Threads exhibition at Leslie–Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art suggests an interesting revisit to a craft that is usually associated with domesticity as well as femininity. Besides the fact that knitting–or embroidery–has become a hyped and yuppie past-time while sipping coffee at a roasting master coffee shop these days, this tradition still perpetuates a sort of nostalgia mixed with the smell of moth balls more than being a form of ‘high art’.
The exhibition twists this connotation of the subject by bringing together a group of artists that use the tradition of threading as a metaphor to verbalize different matters such as gender stereotypes, body politics and prejudice against sexual identities. Works in the exhibition range in size and technique; however they all use thread as a medium as well as a metaphor for self-expression.
For an excellent review of this exhibition, you can jump on Emily’s article here on Filthy Dreams; but there is one installation that covers a whole corner with its warm and witty charm in this show: Nathan Vincent’s Locker Room from 2011. Standing as a yarn covered crocheted locker room with all of its basic elements from showers to urinals, this installation maneuvers around the gender stereotypes in a mode that is hilariously uncompromising.
As daring and in-your-face as it gets, Vincent’s installation picks up on a high school nightmare of every queer kid: the locker room where all the jocks are the rulers (nowhere else but there) and where all the geeks and queers have to wait for a few more years until they become successful screenwriters or TV producers. Turning this masculine environment into a yarn-covered crochet heaven, Vincent queers the macho as he shakes the common type. Small details such as the grains of the wooden bench or the colors on the cabinet locks are neatly created by the artist with yarn. Inviting with its charm and intimidating with all that gym class nightmare it reminds of, this high school locker room fantasy/nightmare is as soft as ball of yarn, yet as hard as a football coming towards your face at full speed.
Uptown the 2014 Whitney Biennial awaits you with its floors full of art as contemporary as it can get. The fourth floor features Joel Otterson’s Curtains Laced with Diamonds Dear for You, a striking large-scale installation that is an ode to gender politics and queer identity. Similar to Nathan Vincent’s installation downtown, Otterson’s Biennial work Curtains Laced with Diamonds Dear for You touches upon a similar topic: being a queer artist–or individual –in a ‘non-queer’ world.
Besides the similarity in their subject matters, the two artists also use uncommon materials to create a unique artistic voice. Gracefully hanging from the ceiling like a magnificent curtain, combined with industrial tools such as screws, hammers and forks, lengthy stripes of colorful glass beads shine and sparkle with all their charm. Industrial tools that look like they were grabbed from a repair shop, on the other hand, stand still with all their manly and utilitarian existence hanging from them.
Employing the contrast between two materials in a graceful yet alternative harmony, Otterson’s work carries a certain fragility that comes from the ruggedness of the tools and the tenderness of the glassworks. Placing the tools to the bottom of the installation by turning the glasswork into the source of power, the artist goes further in his quest for meaning that comes from oppositions. Otterson’s work stands out as a symbol of masculine fragility and a potent tenderness as he twists, turns and clashes the stereotypes in crafts, art-making and gender politics.
Feminized Eva Hesse rope installation vs. queer threads — what a funny introduction! And I find the title of Otterson’s installation, “Curtains Laced with Diamonds Dear for You,” beautiful. Thank you for the article!