Austin City Bus Covered in Knit

Knitted Art Blankets Blanton Courtyard in Austin

Contemplating the Austin craft scene, Im reminded of a question my mom asked me once when discussing art. “What about functional art?” she asked. Immediately, I thought, “If the object is functional it ceases to be purely art, which is why we have categories like design and craft!!”

Knit Art in Austin, Texas

Sweaters for Austin's Parking Meters

Although, I am not espousing my statement as an axiom of truth””interesting thoughts emerged: Can art be functional?

If a ceramic dish is intended to be utilitarian (no matter how beautiful), I would call it adish. Perhaps, even an artful, or beautiful dish””but a dish, no less. However, if someone told me that a ceramic object, which looked exactly like a dish but was not intended to be used for eating, and was hung on a wall, I would call it art. Countless artists have excavated this relationship.

Increasingly, in recent years, there has been a trend of using craft mediums to transcend traditional boundaries of materials like: embroidery, crochet, glass, ceramics, etc. Conjuring images of feminist artists like Judy Chicagos The Dinner Party. Its as if female artists redefine the definition of “woman” as they redefine the materials, with which their sex is often synonymous.

Along similar lines, female artist Magda Sayeg will be covering the Blanton Museums outdoor plaza with knitted things.

Austin Knitters Dressing the City

Im not sure that Sayeg is considering her position as a woman while bombarding her obsession on the external world. However, as objects go; these knitted coverings are not functional. Multicolored, striations of yarn will transform most of the functional objects in the plaza: light posts, benches, sign poles, etc. And, its not as if light posts get cold in the winter.

The point may best be described as the externalization of an individuals obsessions, or to attract attention, turning the Blantons plaza into knitters coloring book. Whatever is the point, youll be sure to notice as you walk past the museum. And the Blanton Museum is requesting your help; click here to join in on the knitting! The installation is scheduled for debut March 5, 2011.

Images for this article found here, and here.

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  1. Elizabeth W. Noyes says:

    Hasn’t this discussion gone on for SO long! I don’t make the distinction between art and craft anymore. I just distinguish between what pleases and what doesn’t – my personal aesthetics. I’m just about, inspired by some of my own oil paintings and Sonia Delaunay, to knit a functional blanket! I also knitted some outer coverings for Thneeds after having a conversation with Deanna Pindell, an eco-artist I met on facebook. You might visiting her. I love the bus. Buses should be inviting. Thank you.

  2. Vance Maverick says:

    [Second attempt] Yes, art can be functional — the obvious example being architecture. But Elizabeth is right to say that the art-craft boundary has been under attack for a long time now. The Bauhaus is one obvious reference point (and there too, craft-as-art was largely women’s domain — Black Mountain echoed this). These pieces, in any case, are fun: another