Preview: Crafting America

Preview: Crafting America

The highly anticipated exhibition is on view at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art until May 31.
Published on Thursday, March 4, 2021. This article appears in the Spring 2021 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Orange metal coil sculpture

Hoss Haley’s Architectural Coil Maquette, 2011, 8 x 10 x 15 in. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Crafting America. With works ranging from Navajo weaver Melissa Cody’s inspired tapestries to Peter Voulkos’s experimental sculptural ceramics and George Nakashima’s simple, elegant rocking chair, Crafting America at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions on American craft since Lee Nordness’s seminal 1969 exhibition Objects: USA.

Curated by Jen Padgett and Glenn Adamson, the exhibition presents a survey of craft history in objects from 1940 to today, with new work and important historical pieces from the studio craft movement showcased side by side.

Colorful sculpture of a tiger balancing on a striped ball

Anne Lemanski’s Tigris T-1, 2018, 64 x 61 x 30 in. Photo by Steve Mann.

Colorful ceramic urn with face of Frederick Douglass

Roberto Lugo’s Frederick Douglass / Arthur Ashe Urn, 2017, 11 x 11 x 18 in. Photo courtesy of Wexler Gallery.

Hanging woven sculpture with multiple bulbs

Ruth Asawa’s Untitled (S.028, Hanging Four-Lobed Continuous Form within a Form), 1960, 86.5 × 32 × 32 in. Photo courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. © Estate of Ruth Asawa.

For Padgett, the human aspect of craft feels particularly poignant during this period of social distancing. She’s pleased Sonya Clark’s Beaded Prayers Project, a collaborative art project that engaged more than 5,000 participants, is included. “It speaks to the human connectivity through craft, with each beaded packet created by an individual who contributed their time, hopes, and energy to the collective work,” Padgett says. “Being part of something larger than yourself through acts of making feels especially meaningful right now.”

Some of the more than 100 works in the exhibition are part of Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection. Padgett is excited that viewers will have the opportunity to see, for example, the “voluminous, almost ethereal sculptures” of Ruth Asawa’s Untitled (S.028, Hanging Four-Lobed Continuous Form within a Form)—made with a looped wire technique inspired by Mexican basket weaving—through the lens of craft.

Colorful glass mandala with various faces and animals

Einar De La Torre and Jamex De La Torre’s ¿Qué me ves? (What Are You Looking At?), 2007, 48 x 48 x 8 in. Photo courtesy of the artists and Koplin Del Rio Gallery. © Einar and Jamex de la Torre.

Crafting America is powerful and timely. “The themes in the exhibition around telling a broader and more inclusive story of craft in the United States,” Padgett says, “feel particularly relevant in light of the calls for greater equity, inclusion, and justice that have shaped this year.”

February 6–May 31, 2021 | @crystalbridgesmuseum

Wooden chest with drawers and legs like branches

Wendell Castle's Chest of Drawers, 1962, 47.25 x 20.44 x 52.38 in. Photo courtesy of R & Company.

Colorful quilt with black skeleton riding a beast

Ben Venom's I Am the Night Rider, 2015. 49.5 x 61.25 in. Photo courtesy of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design, commissioned by the Friends of the Gregg, 2016.007.001.


Keep up on happenings in the craft world through our newsletter

Sign up to receive our Craft Dispatch, a curated dose of exciting events, opportunities, and content from our community delivered to your inbox each month.

Subscribe to Newsletter