One of the things I love most about Bushwick is the neighborhood’s constant shifts and multiple personalities, so I’m never really sure what to expect. Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised with…well yes, the weather, but more importantly the variety of materials and processes in play at Bushwick Open Studios. Artists often integrate traditional craft mediums like textiles, ceramics, and metal alongside and within sculpture, works on paper, and painting. Many artists have listed their studios as "mixed media," but what is the implication of this mix for "craft"?
Underneath the thundering M train tracks, James Reeder brings craft materials into his hyper-atmospheric studio at 796 Broadway. Vellum is a sheer, nearly transparent craft paper commonly used in scrap booking, but Reeder converts this humble material into sleek prismatic blocks. The smaller-scale pieces are about the size of my thumb, but for new work he’s thinking bigger and adding a sound component.
At The Schoolhouse, 330 Ellery St., Iowa native Elliot Kurtz was cranking out silk-screen prints in the basement print shop while displaying finished drawings and prints for sale. Silk screening has been described as "craft 101," but that’s not how Kurtz sees it. "[The silk-screening process] forces me draw things I never get sick of, and they have to be pretty perfect too before I bother to make a screen. Then I can make as many prints of it as I need." Kurtz’s process not only enables him to experiment with proliferation, it also helped him sell his designs to J. Crew.
Jeremiah Jones, at 49 Bogart St., presents a fusion of projected film and animation with quilting and embroidery. Jones explained, "I was working as a freelance educator at the Folk Art Museum at the time, so I got the opportunity to really understand the quilts and bring some of that into my work." Jones’ work brings video projection together with appliqué, a quilting technique in which one smaller piece of fabric is sewn directly on top of a larger background. There is an undeniable similarity between video and needlework — both demand the maker’s attention and touch in every frame and every stitch.
Punk rock circa 1970s brought a renaissance of DIY and craft, an aesthetic that still resonates with artists as another channel to express their ideas and aesthetic. Mirror mosaic bottles from Caviar Cartel made the party at Eastern District, 43 Bogart St., bringing some glam to the grit. These pieces are at home among framed oil paintings and indoor street art united under pop-punk influence.
Anne Arden McDonald, 49 Bogart St., also uses craft in her multi-faceted art practice. A self-taught photographer and seamstress, McDonald’s aesthetic hovers between the natural and ethereal, and is equally present in each medium. "I chose one practice for certain elements of texture, and another when I desire something crisp. I’m glad to have options." This same theme of non-linear development of cultural production is evident throughout Bushwick Open Studios.
Not one of these artists used the word "craft" while discussing their process, but not for fear of the stigma previously associated with craft. Instead, the traditional divisions between fine art, design, and craft are no longer important to these makers, and what remains is cultural production — interdisciplinary intersections of art and aesthetics.