Stretched and bound over wooden frames, the animal pelts of Australian artist Ruth Marshall are so utterly realistic looking that it is difficult to believe that they are not in fact fur and hide. Constructed out of knitted yarn, they compel us to consider the endangered species killed and skinned by poachers and collectors. Though illegal, the devastating skin trade has taken the lives of thousands of tigers in the past thirteen years, leaving only an estimated 3,200 tigers in the wild. Before poaching practices, deforestation, and other damaging factors contributed by humans, there were approximately 100,000 of this magnificent creatures around the globe.
Marshall learned of the plight of wild cat species while working at the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society, an experience that moved her deeply. With her Big Cat Series, she hopes to provide a sustainable and humane alternative to tiger, leopard, and jaguar pelts. The nuances of each life-sized work is touchingly based on a real animal, whom the artist became acquainted in captive conditions. A few are modeled after skins owned by collectors. The project effortlessly illustrates the value of artisan work, which ultimately could hold higher commercial value than black market pelts.
Here, Marshall transforms a cruel practice into a labor of love. Where animal pelts have come to represent a cruel and grotesque opulence and greed, she introduces knitting, a craft associated with nurturing and care. As a result, her pieces are both disarming and lovely,a refreshing jolt of sustainability and activism. To learn how you can help save the tigers and other animals, please visit World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society. (via Dark Silence in Suburbia)
In a world of online matchmaking and social media, the artist Noortje de Keijzer offers a simpler option: an art piece and product entitled My Knitted Boyfriend, a knit pillowcase that comes to life when stuffed. In this witty critique of modern dating and expectations, My Knitted Boyfriend eliminates all the messy parts of a human relationship, conforming to individual preferences; he will enjoy whatever you enjoy, and he “can be adjusted to your own tastes” with the use of accessories like facial hair, tattoos, or glasses.
Although humorous in its somewhat cynical outlook on modern love, the piece is unexpectedly sentimental. The boyfriend himself comes along with an illustrated book narrating the story of de Keijzer and her cuddly lover, much like children’s picture books that include a stuffed animal. Also like a children’s storybook, the text and illustration follows a simple, nostalgic format: we are told that they “sleep together” and are offered an innocent sketch of the pair doing just that. The boyfriend, though he is not real, becomes a precious manifestation of the fictional—or imaginary—friend that enchants the young mind.
Complicating the delightfully sweet story of the artist and her beau is the work’s clever take on the domestic theme. As seen in her charming short film, the relationship is build not around professional ambition or the public realm; instead, they eat breakfast and watch movies. In fact, the man himself is knitted and therefore associated with the home. This 1950s-style domestic romanticism is brilliantly complicated and subverted by the fact that the male and not the female here is the homemaker; in place of the mid-century ideal of the perfect wife, My Knitted Boyfriend is that crucial element that makes a house a home. In the artist’s own astute words to her knitted partner, “You fit in my interior perfectly.” (via Design Boom)
Melbourne based artist Casey Jenkins is a self-described “craftivist” who founded Craft Cartel, an organization that seeks to combine crafting and political activism, in 2007. “Craft imbues you with power because you’re forced to contemplate the issue you’re addressing. It’s very reflective in a sense of when you put that message out into the world, people know you must really care because you’ve devoted that much time to it,” Jenkins says.
Jenkins’ most recent performance project, “Casting Off My Womb” (Aussie TV calls it “Vaginal Knitting”) involves the artist spending 28 days (the average length of a menstrual cycle) knitting from a new skein of wool that she has placed inside of her vagina each day. Jenkins explains that her performance would not be a performance if she didn’t include menstruation. While she is menstruating, Jenkins says it becomes more difficult to knit because the wool is wet, and she has to tug on the thread a bit harder. Overall, though, she claims the process is slightly uncomfortable, but can also be arousing at times. For Jenkins, she enjoys that her performance associates the vulva – something that can be found offensive or vulgar or invoke a level of fear – with the comfort and warmth that knitting provides and evokes.
“The fact that [cunt's] considered the most offensive word in the English language is a real marker of the time that we’re living and of the society’s attitude towards woman. There’s nothing possibly negative about it. It’s just a deep, warm and delightful part of the female anatomy.”
“Candace Couse is a visual artist exploring issues surrounding space, place, and the body. Her work examines the basic human need to acquire territory as a prerequisite to identity, as well as the loss of security and anxiety that comes with disorientation. Functioning on the assumption that orientation is primary to all other human experience, the body plays a central role in her art practice as both a mechanism for experience and as the principal terrain that we all initially acquire. Her work eagerly engages with the idea of personal geographies as intimate approaches to orientation and identity that are profoundly detached from collective knowledge and public geographies. ”