Head, Heart, and Home

Head, Heart, and Home

Published on Monday, April 16, 2018. This article appears in the April/May 2018 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
AM18 book reviews

Left to right: Handcrafted Maine: Art, Life, Harvest & HomeTom Joyce: Works 2002 – 2017Fray: Art + Textile Politics

Mark LaFavor

Handcrafted Maine: Art, Life, Harvest & Home
Text by Katy Kelleher Photos by Greta Rybus
Princeton Architectural Press, $40

“Maine means something to people,” Katy Kelleher writes in the introduction to Handcrafted Maine. “This is true even for those who didn’t grow up here, even for transplants like me. Maine signifies survival, hard work, and authenticity.”

What follows is a sweeping, lovely survey of Maine’s distinct charm. Over the course of the book, Kelleher profiles 22 makers who call the Pine Tree State home. The artisans are separated into three groups – “Art & Craft,” “Building & Living,” and “Food & Harvest” – but they all share a fierce pride in their community and a passion for things lovingly and carefully created.

Each maker’s story is accompanied by a range of stunning photographs from Greta Rybus, some of them – like the shot of a dogsled traversing a flawless snowscape – spanning two full pages. It is a beautiful book, but more than anything, Handcrafted Maine is attentive. This is fitting: Its subjects attest to the wonder that careful attention can produce. ~Robert O’Connell

Tom Joyce: Works 2002 – 2017
Essays by MaLin Wilson-Powell and Ezra Shales
Radius Books, $70

Through cast and forged sculpture, photography, video, drawings, and mixed-media installations, ACC Fellow Tom Joyce has explored the physical, philosophical, and political implications of iron for more than 40 years, resulting in a body of work that prompts the deepest of meditations. In honor of that contemplative bent, this monograph of his most recent experimentations is as experiential as a trip to a museum. Art history lovers will enjoy the two scholarly essays in its early pages, while sculpture and photography enthusiasts will devour the 200 piercingly detailed images – the works appear real enough to touch – filling the rest.

It’s the sort of book you want to spend an afternoon with, thick pages emitting the scent of ink and fine paper with every turn. If you find the weather too gloomy for a trip to a museum, try curling up with this read instead. ~Megan Guerber

Fray: Art + Textile Politics
By Julia Bryan-Wilson
University of Chicago Press, $55

Fray is a vividly written, cleverly designed, and conceptually challenging examination of textile arts. Julia Bryan-Wilson’s many threads of argument include efforts to escape the binaries of high and low, professional and amateur. Taking on a medium outside the usual realm of art history, she asserts that textiles are contingent and shifting, and that they extend from bodily knowledge and require alternative forms of discussion.

Bryan-Wilson looks at late-20th-century “case studies” in three long chapters, each offering internal oppositions. One examines the San Francisco queer theater group called the Cockettes and the breakthrough Floorpieces of sculptor Harmony Hammond; the next pairs protest symbolism by Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña and the “folk” production of political messages in arpillera wall hangings; the third considers the responses to the AIDS Names Quilt. While her language can tip toward the academic, Bryan-Wilson is brilliant at the close reading of objects as well as characterizing work and her experience of it. Most important, she stretches the thinking of anyone interested in textiles. ~Janet Koplos