Art like the Contemporary Art quilts by Ben Venom ensure their places for traditional craft in the Contemporary Art museums.
Visual studies is the most fascinating topic. Admittedly, even a museum date with artist, Ben Venom, might be the worst idea ever. And most people don’t invite attractive people out on the weekend to go stare at pictures. Even to the sexiest art historian or visual culture expert, looking at tired art is boring. But tired art is different than a lively story. Looking at, perhaps, Contemporary Art quilts and hearing a really amazing tale can be quite riveting. These stories are Contemporary Art worth taking the time to see. This history that’s rich with stories and culture makes for an exciting time at any gallery. Looking at art with the background of visual studies is incredibly fascinating.
To understand examples of fiber art history, one must look at it in the context of culture. When this happens historians begin to realize that art and craft are a match made in heaven. Ben Venom’s Contemporary Art is one example of this relationship. Venom uses stories and histories in his work to make a statement about fine art and traditional craft. Ben Venom’s Contemporary Art quilts are helping to blend the fine arts with craft.
“Textiles has allowed me to push my art past just being a precious object on the wall to becoming a fusion of art, fashion, and especially function.” -Ben Venom
Ben Venom’s Contemporary Art quilts make these two arenas one. These examples of fiber art history are stitched by an exceptional sewist. Venom sews images of heavy metal music on soft quilts. Many will find his juxtaposition of heavy metal imagery with the traditional craft of quilting masterful but strange. Fine art meets craft in an uncordial fashion in the stitching of Ben Venom’s heavy metal contemporary art quilts. Ben recycles grungy and unusual fabrics with personal history, “by stitching donated fabrics into a unified piece” (Venom) onto quilts. These two materials don’t seem to seam together, but the artist skillfully completes it. This meeting of contemporary culture and tradition eliminates the separation of art and craft.
Ben Venom brings craft to the realm of fine art by incorporating culture just as Faith Ringgold does in these examples of fiber art history. Both artists embrace craft to create examples of fiber art history. Ringgold expresses her background with images of quilting bees, beautiful sunflowers, and towering cityscapes in paintings stitched to Contemporary Art quilts. The artist is celebrating craft with the images of her fine art. Venom’s work is also a tribute to craft, but more of a kick in the teeth. Venom stitches images of lions and skeletons and eagles. Oh my! His work is still a commemoration of his past sewn on traditional quilts, but a little more visually shocking. Both artists incorporate culture into the traditional medium of quilting to create fine art.
These quilts become fine examples of fiber art history when they reject culture just as Gee’s Bend was rejecting a culture of Black oppression. Contemporary Art quilts can be soft, but can also be sharp and dangerous. Beautiful “crazy quilt” designs of Gee’s Bend that were pieced from deceased relatives’ denim clothing were a statement of Civil Rights times. The success of the small quilting bees of Gee’s Bend helped to bring African Americans out of poverty and to the polls. Ben Venom’s quilts are the great great grandchildren of the Gee’s Bend quilts. “My work is able to operate in three different worlds: fine art, craft, and the counter culture scene” (Venom). Like the grammies of Gee’s Bend, Venom’s quilts are representations of many thoughts and beliefs against popular culture and politics. Soaring eagles, charging tigers, whips, and chains all turn these quilts into voices instead of just blankets.
“Everyone’s unexplained stain, tear, or rip will be included and when displayed visitors will be able to see a piece of themselves woven into this larger history.” -Ben Venom
Ben Venom also raises his fashion works to the level of Contemporary Art. He is a purveyor of Contemporary Art quilts, but also rock star jackets. The artist is well known for stitching recycled images of heavy metal bands on the backs of denim jackets. The jackets hold the culture of heavy metal as well as the history of the previous owners of the materials. Venom raises art from the dead with his inclusion of both culture and the viewer or participater. Fashion becomes a way to envelope the participant in history and culture. The artist is essentially raising his fine art from craft by creating a space for the viewer. The rips and tares in the canvases of this work are exactly what make it fine art. The artist covers his viewers in battered and personal materials. These marks are individual and welcome their new owners as part of the artwork. This highly personal inclusion of the viewer in addition to culture into the work is the very thing that makes it Contemporary.
People remember these stories when their at the Contemporary Art Quilts Museum. They remember Faith Ringgold painting culture and stitching it into her quilts. They remember the stories and struggles in Gee’s Bend and the beautiful examples of fiber art history they produced. They know that traditional craft and even fashion are fine art. Like fine art, craft is filled with the histories, cultures, and essences of the individuals it represents. Both fine art and traditional craft should hold a space for the viewer. Perhaps it’s wrapped up in a crazy quilt or cozy inside a jacket made by Ben Venom. But the real way to score on a museum date is to remember that Ben Venom has successfully blurred Contemporary Art with splendid traditional craft.