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CGOA Celebrates 20 Years ~ Part 3: Juried Crochet Art Exhibits

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In August 1994, I hosted 90 avid crocheters for a weekend conference at De Paul University in Chicago that included classes taught by Bill Elmore, Joan Davis, Arlene Mintzer and more;  a Keynote Address by Sylvia Landman (Crafting for Dollars); a lecture by Annie Potter; marketplace, meals together, door prizes a plenty. An optional tour of Lake Michigan on the Spirit of Chicago was offered along with an optional post conference workshop with Pauline Turner. The most ambitious of all during the weekend was the Juried Exhibit of Crochet Art.

At the time, I firmly believed that crochet art was an amazing way to educate people about the vast possibilities of crochet. It is amazing to see what can be achieved with just a hook and flexible lines from many, many materials. Today I still hold the same belief: crochet is as varied as the crocheter who does it. Crochet art, however, moves and amazes even the most seasoned professionals when they see how artists apply the hook to the fiber and create amazing works of art.

In my on-going series, looking back at CGOA we celebrate its 20th Anniversary, I want to focus today on the early juried exhibits of crochet art that we produced at our annual crochet conferences from 1994 until 2003. I was privileged to meet and learn from many of the artists whom I met through CGOA. It was a thrill that they were so willing to participate in our juried exhibits and their willingness to send their art for crocheters as well the public to enjoy. From these various exhibits, I eventually chose many of them to be in my book, The Fine Art of Crochet.

I couldn't have done those exhibits without the help of my friend Susan Kenyon who, like me, was a charter member of our local CGOA chapter. I asked her to look back at her experience organizing several juried exhibits and this is what she had to say:

"Beginning with the first CGOA conference, the juried exhibit was a showcase of crocheted artwork.  I was privileged to chair the first exhibit plus two others.  It was exciting to see how people used crochet as their medium and to express themselves. They were creating wall hangings and three dimensional pieces using crochet in such a way that the viewer forgot about the crochet and saw only the piece of artwork.  Often the viewer had to get close to be sure it was crocheted and to see the stitch used.  Other artists made wearable crochet in creative new designs and stitch patterns.  We had to put up 'do not touch' signs around the exhibits because we crocheters like to touch.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was our ability to provide a venue for people to submit their crochet artwork.  We encouraged all crocheters to stretch their creativity.  It has always been my belief  anything we see or feel, externally or internally, can be crocheted.   Time and again the juried exhibits confirmed that to be true."

One of my proudest moments was  collaboration between the Textile Arts Centre in Chicago and CGOA - Chain in Reaction. This traveling art exhibit was juried by Arline Fisch. and we also invited 9 outstanding established artists to exhibit.

Rowan Schussheim Anderson: Staffs of Life
Today, there is still an opportunity for you to exhibit your crochet art. The CGOA Design Competition includes an Artistic Expression category along with Fashion, Accessories, Home Decor and Thread Crochet. An entry form and payment information for the $15.00 fee will be available in mid-June on the CGOA website.

In July 2012, I did a survey of juried exhibits from 1994-2004. Here are some more artworks that evolved out of those incredible shows which we hung like gallery exhibits  in the conference hotels. The work was only up for the short weekend conference, but it was well worth the effort and expense. We educated legions of crocheters about the value of crochet as art and even the most seasoned crocheters learned a thing or two they didn't already know about crochet!

Chunghie Lee:

Tracy Krumm

Carol Ventura:

Norma Minkowitz

Yvette Kaiser Smith

Karen Searle

Bonnie Meltzer
Is there a memorable work of art from a past Chain Link conference/juried art exhibit that stands out in your mind?

After our little trip here down memory lane, I'd like to update you on some of the significant works these artists are STILL doing.

Arline Fisch will be featured in a solo exhibit, "Hanging Gardens," at Mobilia Gallery during April 2014.

Yvette Kaiser Smith created a commission for St. Mary's Breast Center, Epworth Crossing, Newburgh, Indiana in January 2014:

Yvett eKaiser Smith: Pi in Paschal's Triangle Round 3

Chunghie Lee is a fiber artist and writer who lectures at the Rhode Island School of Design and abroad in universities Seoul, Korea including and Evtek Institute of Art & Design, Finland. Her study of Pojagi: Korean Traditional Wrapping Cloths, has inspired wall pieces, sculptures and wearable work.  She has exhibited throughout Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Poland, France, Norway, Finland, Canada, Indonesia, England, Australia, Netherlands, and North America. 

Bonnie Meltzer has completed a series about coal and its related environmental issues.
who pays?
Mixed Media Art Magazine featured a wonderful article in 2014 about Bonnie including an amazing video tutorial on re-purposing found objects.

The 9th International Fiber Biennial at Snyderman-Works Gallery features Norma Minkowitz until April 26, 2014. The Biennial goal has remained the same: "The re-examination of textiles and fibers as a pathway connecting modern art to the oldest instincts in human culture."

Norma Minkowitz: Migration
Rowan Schussheim Anderson had a feature article, "A World of Color," in Fiber Art Now Magazine (Spring 2014)

Mobilia Gallery installs an annual teapot exhibit. Ellen Moon is included in the exhibit this year.

Ellen Moon: White Peony Teapot
Karen Searle serves as a coordinator of the Women's Art Resources of Minnesota's Mentoring Program. See a video of her describing her philosophies and work, past and present.

Dr. Carol Ventura is a professor of art history at Tennessee Technological University. She is working on 3 books and teaches the tapestry crochet method. She is the architect and general contractor for her insulated concrete form home and studio where she plans to offer workshops and studio space for all of the fiber arts in the near future.

Keep me posted on any crochet art that you discover or  your own projects. I'd love to see them!


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