Interpreting the Icons

Interpreting the Icons

Interpreting the Icons

August/September 2018 issue of American Craft magazine
Author Staff
AS18 books

Anchors in Time: Dominic Di Mare, Ruth Asawa, and The Shape of Craft

Mark LaFavor

Anchors in Time: Dominic Di Mare
By Signe Mayfield
Fine Arts Press, $34

Dominic Di Mare ranks among the most revered figures in the worlds of contemporary fiber, craft, and sculpture, his art consistently defying definition. Anchors in Time presents an extraordinary document to match an extraordinary life. It works as both a biography and a celebration, telling the story of a making life that began with his introduction to weaving in 1956 and chronicling the artistic periods that followed.

In this beautifully bound tome, readers encounter the intimately scaled, fragile, and complex constructions – using materials such as hair, paper, bone, and feathers – that established Di Mare as a major force in the fiber art movement of the 1970s. Next comes Di Mare’s work as a draftsman in the ’80s and ’90s, when he rediscovered his love for drawing and painting and produced a series of self-portraits, convoluted geometric forms, and artist books. Independent curator Signe Mayfield’s thorough biography is introduced with essays by poet W.S. Di Piero and curator Michael W. Monroe and followed by a long series of stunning photographs, a treat for newcomers and Di Mare aficionados alike. ~Warren Seelig

Ruth Asawa
By Tiffany Bell and Robert Storr
David Zwirner Books, $70

Ruth Asawa’s work began modestly: She replicated her line drawings in three-dimensional forms by looping whatever wire came to hand. Her sculptural shapes emerged as she crocheted wire, expanding loops until some sculptures grew to more than 20 feet tall, suspended from ceilings.

Over a 50-year career, Asawa’s creations eluded easy categorization. This exquisite monograph – framed by an inviting introduction, critical essays, and a chronology – doesn’t attempt to pin her down; instead it celebrates the breadth of her oeuvre. Her work may appear purely abstract at first glance, but a longer look can reveal biomorphic forms ranging from molecular chains to seedpods to jellyfish. And while her wire work might have drawn inspiration from Mexican food baskets, it defies utilitarian reduction. This sweeping overview of Asawa’s craft, served by photographs both precise and dreamy, serves as a galvanizing encouragement for readers whose own creativity is hard to pigeonhole. ~Norm Weinstein

The Shape of Craft
By Ezra Shales
Reaktion Books, $30

Arguments about what the term “craft” means have existed as long as the word itself. Is it the method of making that defines craft, or the mindset behind the work? Is it about materials or ethos? Most crucially, is the definition constant, or does it have room to expand?

The Shape of Craft wrestles with these weighty topics and more. Ezra Shales, an art history professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, both untangles craft’s central questions and asserts the importance of asking them. His scope includes luminaries such as architectural designer James Carpenter and basketmaker Julia Parker, as well as the weavers who make Ikea’s products.

“The sense of opposition between artificial and natural materials is a pervasive worry in craft,” Shales writes in a chapter on the organic and industrial. “We misread materials as metaphors for the authentic and phony.” If such misreadings pervade the world of making, The Shape of Craft goes a long way toward clearing them up. ~Robert O’Connell