Felt, Thread and the Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art (University
of Minnesota Press, 2009).
String, Felt, Thread presents
an unconventional history of the American art world, chronicling the advance
of thread, rope, string, felt, and fabric from the “low” world
of craft to the “high” world of art in the 1960s and 1970s and
its open embrace by artists working today. Drawn to the aesthetic possibilities,
structural potential, and semiotic power of these materials, an extraordinary
number of artists, including Eva Hesse, Robert Morris, Claire Zeisler, Judy
Chicago, and Miriam Schapiro, experimented with or adopted fiber in the
1960s and 1970s. Such work demonstrated a profound shift in artists’
interest in and approach to fiber, which previously had been dismissed for
its historical associations to “the decorative,” “non-art,”
“craft,” or “women’s work.” In analyzing the
historical and theoretical foundations of this shift, this study illuminates
not only the centrality of fiber to artistic practice in the 1960s and 1970s—a
phenomenon largely overlooked in histories of the period—but also
a set of questions posed by the use of this non-traditional medium regarding
the definition of art and its hierarchical relation to craft. What accounts
for the distinction between art and craft? Why is it so pervasive, if largely
unacknowledged, in the art world? What does it mean to elevate the status
of a material? Who assigns this differential status? And who polices it? String, Felt, Thread uncovers the social dynamics—including
the roles of race and gender—that determine how art has historically
been defined and valued.
West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977 (University of Minnesota Press, 2012). Co-edited with Adam Lerner.
West of Center is
an edited collection of scholarly essays about the unique, interdisciplinary
projects of countercultural artists working on the West coast, the Rocky
Mountain West, and the Southwest in the post war period. The artists brought
together in this study engaged in countercultural artistic practices, creating
art that they saw as individually or socially transformative intended to
generate new life patterns that pointed toward social or political revolution.
Examples of such work include, among others, visionary architect Paolo Soleri’s
hand-cast “earth homes” at Cosanti in Arizona, the hand-built
architecture of the communities Drop City and Libre in Colorado, the political
posters of Yolanda M. López for the Chicano community newspaper Basta
Ya, the multi-sensory movement workshops of Anna Halprin in the San
Francisco Bay area, the creation of immersive light shows in cities through
the Western U.S., and the gender queer theater of the Cockettes. Although these works differ
in form and media, they share the objective of re-creating modern lifestyle
and re-forging subjective experience. In so doing, the artists highlighted
in West of Center strove to move beyond the modernist
definition of art of the time that prioritized pure, transcendent, and essentially
visually oriented aesthetic pleasure toward a practice of representing or
enacting alternative social, political, and ecological systems through collaborative
interaction or encounters.
Marilyn Minter Pretty/Dirty
(New York: Gregory R. Miller, 2015).
Marilyn Minter is famed for her glossy, hyper-realistic paintings, photographs and video works. These seductive images borrow the language of fashion and advertising photography, exploring the boundaries of desire, sensuality, and body anxiety in the age of consumption. Close-up imagery of gaping mouths and dirty feet as well as mud puddles sullying designer shoes all rendered in high-gloss enamel, subversively question the pathology of glamour. Produced in conjunction with the first major museum retrospective on her work, Pretty/Dirty examines every period of the artist's 40-year career, from her beginnings with the controversial porn paintings, initially rejected by the critical establishment, to her later large-scale photorealistic works. Essays from the exhibition's curators, Bill Arning and Elissa Auther, examine the trajectory of Minter's development and her engagement with debates over the representation of the female body. Texts from musicians, artists, writers and curators speak to Minter's wide-ranging cultural influence.