Fibers of Their Being

December 27, 2012

“Toil” is made from hundreds of fabric spirals.

Is that a skull? Knitting and crocheting flaunt some serious attitude in “High Fiber: Women to Watch 2012,” a survey of work by seven textile artists from the U.S., Britain and France. In this National Museum of Women in the Arts show, even the occasional traditional item isn’t so traditional. Here are four of the more startling twists on domestic handicrafts:

“The Knitted Wedding” (2005): British craft artist Freddie Robins got married in this layered, multi-piece gown, made by the members of the Cast Off knitting collective.

“A Meeting Place for a Sacrifice to the Ultimate Plan” (2010-12): Rachel Matthews’ piece is a somber meditation on mortality, with objects including an hourglass and a skull and crossbones. But it’s all knitted from wool, yielding a piece that’s half intimation of doom, half sweater.

“Yoke/Folded” (2006): Tracy Krumm crochets hanging panels that suggest scarves or curtains, except that they’re made of metal. From a distance, this copper-wire piece resembles silk. Up close, it looks more like a barbed-wire fence.

“Toil” (2008): Chinese-American artist Beili Liu’s piece, constructed from cones of silk organza, plays on the material’s origins. Hundreds of delicate fabric spirals cluster like swarming insects.

National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW; through Jan. 6, $10 ($8 for students); 202-783-5000. (Metro Center)
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Katie Aberbach · December 27, 2012