Over Christmas, you may have seen street artist Agata Olek’s latest contribution to the beautification of New York: a pink patterned sweater she crocheted around the iconic bull statue on Wall Street. Olek may have made the biggest splash lately, but she’s far from the only artist to use yarn as their medium of creation: from graffiti “yarn-bombers” who knit tags in public places to high-brow contemporary sculptors, many have embraced knitting, felting, crocheting, and otherwise working with fiber to make sculpture, paintings, and performance. Below, a look at 10 of them.
Drawing her inspiration from the natural world gone slightly awry — this piece, for example, is entitled Bloodshot Aphid — Yanishevsky makes delicate knitted sculptures using wool and wire. Her newest show, which opens on January 8th at the Brooklyn Art Library, she describes as a “catalogue in which scientific fact is obscured by personal experience and grotesque fantasy.”
The husband and husband team of Miller & Stellabarger do performance pieces that center around queer identity. In one, they tangle their beards together, in another they sew themselves to each other and then rip apart. The above photograph is of a pieces they did called Untitled (The Pink Tube) in which both men crochet from either end of an endlessly long pink tube.
Mertens uses yarn in his installation projects to make grand, sweeping moss-like nets (as in this piece, entitled Going Green, which debuted at the Winnipeg Folk Festival) or as a way to track movement and sound, crocheting in different directions based on different audio cues. On his website, Mertens describes his craft as showing the possibilities of any site through “an improvised and organized chaos.”
Founder of the website Knitta Please and pioneer of the yarn-bombing movement, Magda Sayeg’s street art focuses on transforming everyday objects with yarn — like say, that bus that she made a sweater for. Her intent is to cozy up the unforgiving urban landscape while giving a sly wink both to the history of knitting and graffiti.
Dave Cole knits with unusual materials and unusual implements: this teddy bear is one he knitted out of fiberglass, but he’s also made ones out of lead-lined fabric and kevlar. Another project of his shows him knitting an enormous American flag using industrial equipment; one has him knitting a scarf with two loaded guns.
German artist Patricia Waller makes felted and knitted creatures with a macabre wit — there are Disney characters with wool blood, severed limbs, smashed brains, and eerily cute looking wild animals with their freshly murdered meals hanging from their mouths.
Using a variety of textiles, and particularly yarn, Obermeyer explores the link between traditional crafts and gender and environmental issues. Her series Women’s Work, to which the above work belongs, features sweaters that are mangled or attached in interesting ways. Obermeyer also fabricates delicate floral patterns out of thread and wire.
This incredibly impressive knitted Ferrari was a project sculptor Lauren Porter made in school, using up twelve miles of yarn. Porter also created a series of quilted faux hunting trophies and knitted covers for several “homecomforts” items: a toilet, an armchair, and a sink.
Sung’s incredible crocheted sculptures are tongue-in-cheek takes on history and myth: the terrifying fruit with teeth tree, for instance, is from a series entitled Androgynous Eden. Her other work includes full-body crocheted suits, transforming subjects into vicious looking rabbits and poky creatures with multi-colored genitalia.
A group of four Austrian artists, Gelitin work in enormous installations using mixed media — the blindfolded sculpture project, for instance, or the enormous vagina dug out of sand on Coney Island. This project was a humongous pink rabbit that took five years to knit, nestled in the Alps. (Here, someone is asleep on its belly).