Date of this Version
Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,
The medium and metaphors of fiber have a history imbued with gender-based associations, predominantly tied to femininity. Although men have historically participated in the creation of textiles throughout the course of time, the role of women often overshadows them in proliferation and ubiquity of activity. In the 1960s, fiber as an expressive material became intertwined with and politicized by the feminist movement and fiber was frequently employed by artists to address socio-cultural hierarchies. The Men’s Movement also emerged in that era, having its own potential impact on the field of fiber. The layers of historic and cultural hegemony that have guided textile production play into contemporary fiber art and enrich the meaning of the work. These ideologies continue to shape textile art to varying degrees although artists have moved the dialog in new directions. Where do male textile artists fit into the discourse today? A panel of working male textile artists will discuss their experiences and perspectives on the gender roles that surround them and their work.
How do male fiber artists use the medium to overtly address or transgress issues of gender constructs? For those artists who do not employ textiles to directly confront these topics, how do the underlying gender-based histories and currents influence their work? Have these artist been perceived as having turned to “women’s work” and how has that impeded or fueled them creatively and professionally? In the words of artist and educator Mark Newport, “masculine and fiber are not linked in our social consciousness.” What presumptions exist about the nature of the male fiber artist and what misconceptions do these artists confront? The panel will consider how identity politics play out in the hands of male makers and whether or not fiber has finally moved beyond the gender gap.