The exhibition focuses on work where sewing is integral to the making and looking experience. Art/Sewn attempts to blur the distinction between art and craft, so relevant to today’s art world when so-called fine art has adopted craft forms and techniques and craft artists are making non-functional work. What the work shares is sewing—sewing on woven fabric, on paper, felt and skins. Sewing as an artistic means, as expression, as feminist statement. This will be the first exhibition at FiveMyles to examine the role of sewing in the production of contemporary art. The guest curator is Ward Mintz.
Background: In virtually all world cultures, sewing has been the province of women. In the early years of the United States, sewing was perceived as an important skill. At first, this skill was put to use to clothe the family, and for daughters of the working class, sewing continued to be a practical skill through much of the 19th century. In Maryland, nuns instructed the daughters of freed blacks, who produced samplers and embroideries similar to their white counterparts. Increasingly, with the rise of the middle and upper middle class in the 19th century, sewing became a means of self-expression and a route to knowledge for educated, bourgeois women. By the end of the 19th century, with the rise of industrialization, more women were able to indulge in leisure pursuits and were able to produce quilts and other sewn items that were valued more for their artistry and less for their usefulness.
By the 20th century, more and more women were becoming artists and designers, though few were given the opportunity to achieve the celebrity of their male colleagues. By the late 1960s and 1970s, women artists and designers demanded greater recognition and exhibition opportunities. Through the remaining years of the century, in defiance of the prevalent modernist movements, such as Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, many women adopted feminine imagery, materials, colors—and techniques, including sewing.