Friday, April 16, 2010

Street Cred

Cross-Stitch With Street Cred
Allison Tunis takes arts and crafts to the edge, celebrating female sexuality in cross-stitch

I wish I were more articulate. I wish I could better represent cross-stitch--not the straw man description of "cross stitch" that gets used as a basis for deciding that some people are doing "really innovative things" with our craft. (This also goes for The Girl on the Wall, which I find admirable and interesting but probably not nearly as unique as we are being led to believe.) I'm tired of being pointed to the seat by the grannies because what I'm doing is somehow trite and twee. I'm just so fucking sick of the belief that cross stitch is all teddy bears and country geese, unless it's about naked women, ejaculating penises, and the word fuck. (I'm not on the side of the people who are all "eww, ejaculating penises" either. Is there a middle ground?)

Visit Tunis's etsy shop where you can find cross stitch face that is neither family nor celebrity and thus even more perplexing to me. You cannot, however, find the bright purple vibrator. Now that was what I was looking for.

Tunis is probably a fabulously interesting woman at the center of this. It's just that other people are deciding what gets said about her. It's not really about her.

Interestingly enough, people who are old timey readers of rctn will remember that creepy old guy who used to cross-stitch naked women. I'm pretty sure he used 68 different colors of "thread" too. And then you wonder what's the difference between naked chicks stitched by an art school trained woman and naked chicks stitched by an old man ("outsider art"). There is a difference--for instance, one gets you covered in the news and on blogs--but there's not, you know? Again and again someone reinvents the wheel and others point and say "brilliant!" "Outside the box!" "Innovative and unique!" "Speaks for itself!"

Grr. Nothing, people, nothing at all, "speaks for itself." Just strike that from your vocabulary. The implication is that there is only one way to interpret something. Interpretation, however, is mired in ideology. If you think everyone would have your interpretation it's simply because you can't see beyond your own ideology. So fuck you. Wow. That felt good.


Coni said...

Well, gosh darnit...there you go again...making me use my very little brain.

Thought provoking and brilliant, Ms. Van Schurman...brava!

(Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go lie down.)

(Or is it lay down?)

(Where's that damn education when I need it?)

Oh, and P.S...I, for one, would NEVER call you a Grandmother.

MelissaD said...

In case you want to know - Jim Cripwell, a Canadian, is the man on rctn who stitched female nudes - he's still there and still stitching.

I myself would not want to stitch those, nor what Tunis does, nor country geese or angels - my tastes change and what sort of art I like changes as I experience different phases of my life. How and what I think about being creative changes too. Have you ever found an old chart in your stash from 15 years ago - what a hoot!
How boring if we stayed the same!
thanks for the thought provoking post today :)

Redwitch said...

Interesting pieces you've been finding recently! I'm with you on the middle ground, I don't like overly cute and I don't want shock jock stitching either.

Lowest common denominator writing is so, well, common isn't it?

I'm doubly pigeon-holed, cross stitcher and librarian, could I get anymore stereotypical?

PS I'll never be a grandmother either ;)

Casa Pearl said...

Okay this has nothing to do about your post but I'm amazed at the 6 degrees of separation we have based on the fact that your parents have moved to Venice from Merrimack - where I lived and my family has had a condo in Venice for ages. One of these days we've got to meet! Maybe on "the avenue" or at the jetty? Hope you enjoyed your trip.

I have to think more about your post and read a bit more before commenting intelligently.

riona said...

I expect I am one of those first wave feminists [a misnomer if ever there was one ... as if feminism didn't exist before the 50's and 60s] who find pornographic and bondage imagery exploitative and I don't understand how such things can be reclaimed as symbols of choice. As to what makes an artifact art ... that question has been argued down through the ages and is unlikely to be settled in this generation ... but I am fairly certain the academic background of the manufacturer of said artifact is not the qualifying condition. I suspect it has more to do with the intention of the maker, with the effect of the artifact on the observer and with the ever evolving understanding of aesthetics in a given culture.
In any case, I was not moved either emotionally or intellectually by the pieces on the various links ... i.e., beyond a very mild disgust that prompted me to label them as puerile.
By the by, I am a grandmother though I stitched for some thirty years before becoming one ... and I haven't stitched a teddy bear since my daughter [now 32] was three.

Terri(TerriBoog) said...

I have missed your last couple of posts - way too busy at work but as always, I love your say it like it is, style!

Anna van Schurman said...

Riona, we always called that the second wave of feminists. I think of myself as one, but I'm definitely not an anti-pornography feminist. Catharine MacKinnon pushed me over the edge there.

Kathryn said...

There is currently a Jack-In-The-Box commercial that claims that their latest sandwich "speaks for itself". Which led my husband to inquire if the sandwich had a sound chip like those annoying birthday cards that play a song...endlessly. And what would be the consequences of eating a sound chip? Can they really make one that is edible?

Unless it is a human with vocal capabilities, nothing can "speak for itself". Actually, most humans don't speak for themselves either, but merely parrot something they heard someone else say. Thanks for being original.

Anna van Schurman said...

Re: lay down/lie down. Just remember lay down=fuck feathers. It's lie.

Miriam said...

I think you do a fine job representing cross stitch as a real person who picks things she's interested in rather than trying to prove anything to anyone.

I believe I'm in the "third wave" feminist group (riot grrls anyone?). I think the naked women thing is part of the desire of my generation of feminists to be sex-positive in a variety of ways, sort of playing with the idea. 2 things that didn't translate well between the generations are ideas about objectification and homemaking. This is kinda both.

Irritating that people can't seem to stop generalizing about craft until the really interesting details and people just fade again into Us=young and radical vs. Them=old and lame.

Can I vote for a grandmother stitching a naked chick and an art school woman stitching a kitten with flowers?

Pardon me, I have to go crochet a doily. But I'll make it lime green for street cred.