Curator's Corner

Wearable Art

By Karl Cole, posted on Aug 24, 2009

By now you are probably aware that I am more than uncomfortable with the word "craft" when it comes to a myriad of art forms outside of painting, sculpture, and architecture. I've already railed against the use of the term "decorative arts" to describe such myriad art forms, and the term "minor arts" (which I don't think is used that much any more) is probably the worst.

I have seen so many truly awesome works of art in what was traditionally considered "craft" media that I can never refer to them any other way than as works of art. In fact, I see these works of art sometimes and want to go home and snap all my paint brushes in half. Such was my "epiphany" when I first saw the work of Jeung-Hwa Park, an awesome fiber artist.


Jeung-Hwa Park (born 1961, South Korea/US), Falling Leaves IV, scarf, 2001.
Jeung-Hwa Park (born 1961, South Korea/US), Falling Leaves IV, scarf, 2001. Stitched, felted, and dyed machine-knitted wool, 77" x 15" (195.6 x 38.1 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-603)


There has never been a period in history when fiber arts were not an integral part of artistic production throughout the world. Think medieval tapestries in Europe, silk kimonos in Japan, ancient Peruvian textiles, American quilts! The first recognition of fiber arts as a true art form in the West came with the Arts and Crafts movement that developed in the 1860s in England and spread throughout Europe and the US. The next revolution in fiber arts came with the Bauhaus in Germany (1919-1933) under the leadership of Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers. The feminist art movement of the 1960s and 1970s reinvigorated fiber arts under such renowned artists as Claire Zeisler, Magdalena Abakanowicz, and Miriam Schapiro. In the 21st century fiber arts are more vibrant than ever, as evidenced in the work of Jeung-Hwa Park.

Jeung-Hwa Park was born in Korea and designed sportswear before coming to the US to study fashion. At the Rhode Island School of Design she took classes in machine knitting and shibori, eventually earning an MFA from RISD's textile department. Shibori is a Japanese term for a method of dyeing that involves binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or compressing material. In the West the technique is known as tie-dye. Trial and error informed Park that silk and wool were best suited to her techniques. In her current work she continues to experiment with resist-dyeing, incorporating a variety of inclusions in her tied-off materials. The three-dimensional results are what the artist describes as "wearable sculpture."

This scarf comes from a series of works by the same title. In her pieces, Park incorporates the idea of yin/yang, the Eastern principle of merging of opposites. The scarf is both soft and firm. The artist seeks to create a harmony between the age old processes of tie-dyeing and felting with a modern aesthetic for form and pattern. Living in New England, she has been inspired by nature, and many of her works, like this one, incorporate that inspiration. The artist is also a teacher of Korean and of fiber arts appreciation to adults and children.


Additional Resources:

Smithsonian 2010 Craft Show

Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show November 2009

Fiber Art Network is an awesome resource for fiber, basketry, paper making, and more.