Sunday, May 15, 2005

Functional v. Nonfunctional

I went to the Hollywood Stitch N' Bitch the other night and was struck by the fact that I was the only one there who was making completely nonfunctional items. This was not always the case. Back (way back) when I was in my teens and early twenties, every item I made was functional. I crocheted and knitted many, many apparel items that I designed and wore. I was having a great time and my designs were getting lots of attention from my college professors. So, why the change? First, I wanted to get a MFA and teach (which meant I had to start making art for art's sake and not cool clothing - or so I was told). Second, I was becoming exposed to a whole lineage of artists using fibers as the primary medium in their art (Kiki Smith, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Annette Messager, etc.). I was awestruck. Thinking back, this was the turning point when I began to make items inspired by apparel, but were not really wearable tapping into that art historical tradition that evoked women's history, tradition and craft.

So, I began crocheting a series of bras inspired by the myriad slang terms in our vernacular used for breasts (i.e., knobs, knockers, torpedoes, etc.). I made over 20 bras and continued the theme by making undies. None of these items could be worn. I felt as if something magical happened. These items went beyond mere apparel and became art. I started to get a bit of attention through gallery shows and installations AND because of this I was accepted into a graduate program to pursue my MFA degree. I thought I had bridged the craft v. art gap. I thought I had made it!

Thus was the nature of my PROGRAMMING. Here I was, a chick in my mid-twenties pursuing an MFA degree from a prestigious art program that specialized (and still does) in abstract painting. Did you get that? Abstract painting? And here I was with my Rubbermaid bins of yarn and hooks! Not freaking paint! Don't get me wrong, I am classically trained. I know how to paint, sculpt, cast, weld, etc., but I didn't MAKE ANY ART using any of those processes! Anyway, the headtrip was underway and it lasted two years - every professor I had was trying to get me to put down the damn yarn and make some "high art" (I still find this strange because they let me into the place based upon a portfolio full of yarnage (yes, I just made this word up). I relented and started casting these big ole plastic and rubber sculptures. They were huge and toxic to create. To make a long story short, I survived my MFA program and started to teach shortly thereafter. Thus began the long process of my DEPROGRAMMING.

It has been eight years since I graduated from Claremont Graduate University. Eight years of trying to shed that "high art is not made of yarn" junkola! So, here I am making homicidal veggies and puppets....thumbing my nose at the art world! And I've been trying to get back to making something functional. Here is my attempt: a seven foot tall mermaid (she was supposed to be a wearable costume, but ended up an Amazonian, apparel inspired object). I tried! I really did. LOL

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Copyright 2005 Regina Rioux Gonzalez. All rights reserved.

The deprogramming continues....

9 comments:

Debi said...

Wow! I love the Mermaid!!!! You should make some child sized ones for halloween. Too cute.

kath red said...

interesting post, such an age old art school topic that occasionally hits someone on the head. keep going in your own direction, love the non functional bra idea, i guess you are turning 'craft' into 'art'

~drew emborsky~ said...

Thanks for the background info. I'm glad you are detoxing from the college junkola. Of course we are all dying to see the bras!!! SHOW US YOUR BRAS!!! ;)

Jenn said...

listen, with some of the "high art" I have seen...give me a knitted bra any day!!
I love your softie this month. amazing!!

ladylinoleum said...

The "lost bras" story to come...sad, very sad.

MomThatsNuts said...

you are really good! a Mermaid tail??? awesome! I love your style,,FOOOEY on the art school...lol

Mom

ladylinoleum said...

Really though, I loved every freakin' minute of Claremont. Aside from the anti-yarn diatribe I encountered incessantly, that is. However, the friends I made there are my whole world. We are a very tight-knit group that have stayed glued together for a decade now. So, ultimately, art school was a success. AND I still have my bins of yarn! Woooohoooo!

ThreeOliveMartini said...

that totally rocks!

*TheMermaid* said...

wow this is almost my story too. when I was studying art, I worked fabric and yarn into every single class. My first big sculpture was a mermaid crocheted onto a steel rod frame. I always thought if I just started making giant hats with mysterious titles, my profs would finally call me an artist. lol.

Nice to know I wasn't the only one.

PS. A tribute to your bacon wrap at my blog today... rock on.