Nov 11, 2011

Artist Profile| Dave Cole: Political Fine Art Crafting

Dave Cole, Knitted Lead Bears, 2006
  lead ribbon knitted of lead wool armature

Dave Cole is an American sculptor who was born on October 14, 1975 in Lebanon, New Hampshire. He is a graduate of The Putney School located in Putney, Vermont, and he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University in 2000. His studio is currently based in Providence, Rhode Island. Cole uses crafting methods such as knitting, sewing, and quilting to create sculptures that portray criticisms on patriotism, industry, and domestic life in America. He uses controversial themes and unusual methods of construction to create playful and almost subversive pieces. Many of his pieces are quite large in size, but he has been working on a consistent basis since 2000.  

Dave Cole, The Knitting Machine, 2005
acrylic felt with excavators and utility poles.
Completed flag is Approx. 30x20x1 feet

The Knitting Machine (pictured above) is one of Cole's most famous works, it was displayed at MASS MoCA on July 4th weekend in 2005. This piece represents everything Dave Cole tries to represent in his art; a criticism of industry, patriotism, and domestic life. The artists himself has said, "The Knitting Machine combines the feminized domestic American tradition of knitting with the grandiose gesture of construction usually associated with masculine labor. The Knitting Machine challenges familiar notions of labor and production, while expressing a complex understanding of patriotism." This piece also shows the Cole works with often unfriendly or unfamiliar materials like the back hoes and utility poles and some how transforms them into something familiar and almost comical by turning them into knitting needles which is something so domestic and open to everyone. You can go to your nearest craft store and buy acrylic yarn and knitting needles but it would be much more difficult to but a back hoe. The contrast of these two elements of the piece brings into light the absurdity of certain stereotypical notions of domestic life. Such as knitting is for women and construction is for men, Cole has managed to combine to two and show that stereotypes are more intertwined than most can tell. 

 Dave Cole, Fiberglass Teddy Bear, 2003
182 rolls of fiberglass building insulation, hand knitted with urethane fixate
16x16x14 feet
Another example of Cole's art is Fiberglass Teddy Bear. It show the size that David Cole often works in much like The Kitting Factory. This piece is a commentary on domestic life. It looks like a cute, giant teddy bear but once you start taking in the bear you realize it is made of a material that is dangerous and not something most people want to see in front of them. Very much like domestic stereotypes, in terms of the fact that it seems harmless on the outside but if you if you take a closer look, it's not necessarily something one would like to see. Looks innocent but with something darker lurking underneath. There is also some commentary on industry as well, with the fact that this is hand knitted but with an extremely processed, industry-born material. By using this material he is bringing a material know to be a huge part of the home making industry into the art realm and making viewers consider it outside of a purely economical context.

-Sarah Claypool


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