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Nicole Gastonguay's crocheted art
January 7, 2008 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Nicole Gastonguay is an artist who creates one-of-a-kind crocheted art, with anthropomorphic food and drink as a recurring theme: sandwich, tin of sardines, cheeseburger, bottle of hooch, hotdog, TV dinner. Oh, and something for Tony Soprano. Via.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (37 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, my goodness. How cute!
posted by amro at 10:25 AM on January 7, 2008


Those are super adorable. I think they've made my Monday.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:41 AM on January 7, 2008


They're cute, but is there some kind of artistic point they're supposed to be making besides 'Oh, god, Cute Overload, please link my site so I can sell 28 cents worth of cheap acrylic yarn for $75!'?
posted by jacquilynne at 10:42 AM on January 7, 2008


More knitted food. Interesting non sequitur on the same site, Nude Suits (NSFW).
posted by The Straightener at 10:46 AM on January 7, 2008


Some people just like making cute things. It'd give me joy, and if it made money too, all the better. It's like breeding kittens or something.
posted by luftmensch at 10:47 AM on January 7, 2008


I'm "hooked"! You know about the crocheted uterus, right?
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2008


I'm in favour of cute things -- I'm just not clear why these cute things are 'art' instead of just cute things.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:49 AM on January 7, 2008


I love amigurumi. I love cannoli.
posted by iconomy at 10:53 AM on January 7, 2008


I'm just not clear why these cute things are 'art' instead of just cute things.

Only ugly creations can be art by default.
posted by DU at 12:02 PM on January 7, 2008


Yeah, some of those photos are cute. And then there's yarn stuff too.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:08 PM on January 7, 2008


My own addition to whimsical fiber art: I am knitting a balaclava so that it looks like a ninja is driving my car.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:10 PM on January 7, 2008


jacquilynne wrote: I'm in favour of cute things -- I'm just not clear why these cute things are 'art' instead of just cute things.

Hmm, that is really an interesting question. The main reason I called them crocheted art in the post is because she describes herself as a graphic artist on her "about" page, and also because she designed each one to be unique (no pattern). Probably the other reason is because they're not functional, the way crocheted clothing would be (but then I guess some would argue that art can be functional too!). I suppose I think of the definition of "art" as fairly fluid and as encompassing a pretty wide range of things. I do definitely think of these as cute things, too.

[Oh, and thanks for the link to the crocheted uterus, iconomy! I never thought I'd say this, but that's a damned cute reproductive organ.]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:28 PM on January 7, 2008


I'm just not clear why these cute things are 'art' instead of just cute things.

Wow, now *there's* a distinction I'd like to hear more about. I dunno, jacquilynne, I'm kinda thinking that's an unsustainable split you're maintaining between "just cute thing" and "art," but go ahead; I'm curious to learn how you tell the difference. Cause if those sardines don't count as "art," I don't know what does.
posted by mediareport at 12:30 PM on January 7, 2008


Cause if those sardines don't count as "art," I don't know what does.

Anyone who can make fermented smelly fish heads cute is an R-Teest!
posted by aftermarketradio at 1:04 PM on January 7, 2008


Heaven knows, I'm no expert on art. But usually on artists' sites, there's some kind of statement talking about their art as art. Not just technique, but what they're trying to capture or say. A lot of those statements read as so much bullshit, mind you, but they at least imply that the artist has given some measure of thought to their objets as art instead of just as the sort of crafty things one can buy in a church basement.

I knit this, along with some other items from Puzzle Pirates for a contest. No pattern was used, the resulting item is cute and squishy and original -- arguably very comparable to the stuff on this site (if somewhat badly photographed). But is it art? Would it be art if I declared myself an artist before I made it?

I think those things are cute, but they just don't speak to me on any level besides 'Aww! Cute!'
posted by jacquilynne at 1:06 PM on January 7, 2008


That canoli is not for Tony Soprano.

It's for Peter Clemenza.
posted by shmegegge at 1:15 PM on January 7, 2008


Wow...I am pretty sure my sister was friends with Nicole when they were little girls. Her stuff is pretty cute for sure, but I'm more blown away by the blast from the past!
posted by Biblio at 1:50 PM on January 7, 2008


jacquilynne said: I knit this, along with some other items from Puzzle Pirates for a contest. No pattern was used, the resulting item is cute and squishy and original -- arguably very comparable to the stuff on this site (if somewhat badly photographed). But is it art? Would it be art if I declared myself an artist before I made it?

Well, yes, I think if you had made it in the fashion you describe and then called it art, then it would be. I've knit some cute stuffed things that were patternless originals, and while at the time I didn't call them art, I suppose I could if I wanted to. Why not? I like the idea of acknowledging the value (I don't mean monetary) of our creative work!

I think the guidelines for what makes art art are maddeningly vague and difficult to pin down, but I also think that's part of the nature of art. I'm no art expert either, but a recent trend I've noticed is an effort among certain artists to challenge traditional ideas of what art is with work that tends to be playful, incorporate a lot of pop culture iconography, and use a wide range of materials.

As to whether any of this is good art, well, that is another discussion that would raise all kinds of disagreement, but I do think if the artist's intention is for it to be art, then it is.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:24 PM on January 7, 2008


I think Nicole Gastonguay's work crosses the line past cute into art. Amigurumi cute, not art. Nthing the sardines as art. Maybe it's the absurd factor? And also her exquisite neatness, there's a graphic art precision there.

Knitted trophies by Rachel Denny.

Exquisite crocheted barnacle doilies as art.

This is an awesome blog, GlittyKnittyKitty, guerilla knitting.

Dances With Wools is awesome too, check out the Fantastical Knitted Sea Creatures, knitted from recycled bags, wow. The artist, Helle Jørgensen, has a pretty cool list of knitting links on Flickr.

whoa, that breast cancer survivor nude suit is amazing. Adding to the nude factor, Not the Knitting You Know. and adding to the weird Asian humor factor, knitting twine voodoo dolls.

The things one finds when googling crochet art: New Treatment For Varicose Veins Uses Crochet Hooks
posted by nickyskye at 3:06 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I bet if we removed the googly eyes and frowny faces from Nicole's pieces, jacquilynne would have an easier time calling it art. :)
posted by mediareport at 3:29 PM on January 7, 2008


Hrmm, no. I think the googly eyes give it personality it wouldn't have if it were just base knitted representations of real world objects. They make it seem more like it might be art, not less.

I know 'what is art?' is a huge philosophical question, but I still find myself asking that about this sort of endeavor. As an example, I saw a show at the Frist Center in Nashville last summer, the work of a clay sculptor, Sylvia Hyman, who was creating trompe l'oeil pieces out of clay -- mainly representations of packages and printed paper materials. It was interesting and obviously an example of very advanced technical craftsmanship, but until I sat down and watched her commentary, and understood her purpose in choosing the specific objects she did, I wasn't sure that it was anything other than a bravura display of skill.

Maybe my sense that art should mean something beyond 'this is a crocheted milk carton' is misguided. After all, no one disputes that the paintings of the old masters were art, yet many of them seem to mean 'a very rich dude paid me to paint his girlfriend' -- they're technically amazing but perhaps not any more deep than a crocheted milk carton.

I'm way out of my depth here, not really having any background in art appreciation, and perhaps thinking harder about crocheted food than I probably should, but these are questions I struggle with a lot when it comes to art vs. craft. This post, which covers a craft that I actually do, really brings those questions to mind, precisely because it's the sort of thing I can do. It's easy for me to assume that a painting must be art because painting is, like, hard and stuff, so for someone to bother to create a painting they must have a reason, but crocheting little things, because it's something I can and have done makes me question that assumption.

Perhaps we could get her to crochet a plate of beans.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:05 PM on January 7, 2008


But usually on artists' sites, there's some kind of statement talking about their art as art. Not just technique, but what they're trying to capture or say. A lot of those statements read as so much bullshit, mind you, but they at least imply that the artist has given some measure of thought to their objets as art instead of just as the sort of crafty things one can buy in a church basement.

So you have to be a navel gazer, not to mention a post-1996 Internet user with a "site", to be an artist now? Scores of prehistoric cave painters, and Bach, gasp in surprise.
posted by DU at 4:54 PM on January 7, 2008



So you have to be a navel gazer, not to mention a post-1996 Internet user with a "site", to be an artist now?


Yes. Clearly, that's precisely what I meant by that statement.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:10 PM on January 7, 2008


Wow, when I posted this I never expected to have such an interesting discussion about the nature of art! That's why I love MetaFilter.

Perhaps we could get her to crochet a plate of beans.

HA!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:39 PM on January 7, 2008


jacquilynne, I understand where you're coming from; I think all of us who like art - and like thinking about art - have to address that question at some point, in our own heads if nowhere else. I'll just pass along my feeling that life is more interesting when we open up definitions to include as "art" a lot more of the "art vs. craft" continuum than you currently seem to be doing.

Making careful distinctions between art and craft in cases like this doesn't really add much to understanding of the material, I've found, and is probably not worth doing.
posted by mediareport at 5:47 PM on January 7, 2008


Yes. Clearly, that's precisely what I meant by that statement.

Obviously you weren't thinking of the Internet (one would hope). However, you definitely were requiring anyone called "artist" to have "made a statement" or "given some measure of thought to their objects as art". The latter is debatable (and I would argue not required) but the former is just ridiculous. Can't art just be, without all the post-modern meta-BS built on top of it?
posted by DU at 6:17 PM on January 7, 2008


I don't know. Can it?

I'm not being facetious here, though I realize that these are probably infantile questions to anyone who is involved in the world of art.

If there's something that sets art apart from craft or decoration, it seems to me like that something might be intent or meaning. I can't, looking at these photos or at Nicole Gastonguay's website, discern what intent she had or what meaning she attaches to those items. Nor can I attach any meaning to them from my perspective. I can only sometimes do that without reading an artist or curator's statement, so that's not an indication that the items are devoid of meaning, just that I can't figure out what it might be.

I have a deep respect for craftsmanship and technical achievement, but these don't really represent much accomplishment in that area. They're deliberately simplistic and while they're not poorly crafted, there's nothing noticeably innovative about them from a technical standpoint. Some of them are original in subject matter, but many of them are not. From the perspective of craftsmanship, they're cute but otherwise unremarkable.

So that brings me back to whether there's something about them that makes them interesting beyond that they're kinda cute, because, well, kinda cute seems like a pretty low bar for calling something art. Maybe the fact that I've thought about them this much is enough, in and of itself, to prove that they're interesting beyond kinda cuteness. And maybe as mediareport suggests, I'm using too limited a definition of art.

I guess, I just want 'art' to mean something means something -- and I'm not sure these do.

Mean anything, I mean.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:46 PM on January 7, 2008


If you just like foods (and other stuff) with cute faces (and don't necessarily care about them being knitted or crocheted), My Paper Crane is probably the cutest out there! Nicole Gastonguay's creations are adorable, too, and I'd never seen her work before. Thanks for pointing her out!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:08 PM on January 7, 2008


I just want 'art' to mean something

Sure, a lot of folks share that opinion, and the "Can art be good without meaning?" question has been chewed over for decades and decades by lots of sharp minds who end up all over the map on the answer. But, you know, you're also allowed to bring your own meaning to "cute" stuff like this. I don't know why I love those damn sardines so much, but I do - they combine this sharp, stinky metal fishy thing with soft, warm, rounded yarn. That contrast cracks me up. And then I see it as a composition, with that thin teal stripe down the left side of the tin, the two-tone brown and the bright red of the fish heads. Then I notice the way the stripe and the eyes sort of mirror each other...stop me now before it gets silly. Point is, you don't have to stretch too far to find most of these have "meaning" out the wazoo - look at the stripes on the milk cartons or the shapes in that adorable fucking canoli.

Maybe we just need to broaden the meaning of "meaning." :)
posted by mediareport at 10:22 PM on January 7, 2008


Oops! Sorry, just realized I misattributed the crocheted uterus link to iconomy but it was actually DenOfSizer.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:53 PM on January 7, 2008


I guess, I just want 'art' to mean something means something -- and I'm not sure these do.

A lack of a statement about meaning does not imply a lack of meaning. If anything, if an artist feels that they have to transmit meaning to me in a separate message, that implies that I can't get that meaning from the art itself.
posted by DU at 6:03 AM on January 8, 2008


I think those things are cute, but they just don't speak to me on any level besides 'Aww! Cute!'

I really like the reason Jacquilynne gives for not considering these items art. I'm not going to pretend to make some definitive statement on the distinction between art and craft here, but I don't consider an item a piece of art unless it has something more to recommend it than painstaking, skilled or even ingenious craftsmanship. A piece of art is something more than the sum of its parts or the sheer effort or skill that went into creating us; it transcends its materials and speaks to at least some of its viewers. It's thought and/or emotion realized.

Part of the problem here is that the term "craft" has become somewhat degraded. When the word "craft" is used to describe both toilet paper cozies and a fabulous handmade sweater or chair of original design, it's only reasonable for people to want to find a way to distinguish the best of the category. But that doesn't mean the sweater or chair are works of art (though they could be) — they are probably only works of fine craftsmanship.
posted by orange swan at 6:11 AM on January 8, 2008


As Orange Swan suggests, crochet can be considered more craft than art. Though, if you strip away the functionality from a crafted piece, maybe that takes it into the art realm?

I would say that whether it is art or not has more to do with how you feel about it, and what you say about it, than what it is.

YMMV.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 8:38 AM on January 8, 2008


If anything, if an artist feels that they have to transmit meaning to me in a separate message, that implies that I can't get that meaning from the art itself.

They probably do, since you've demonstrated over and over again that your ignorance about art makes you hate it.
posted by interrobang at 9:50 AM on January 8, 2008


A lack of a statement about meaning does not imply a lack of meaning.

Are you even reading my posts? I specifically note that a lack of a statement doesn't mean there is no meaning, but that if there is meaning in these pieces, I can't figure out what it might be. This feels like one of those conversations you have with customer service bots, where you get automatic replies that relate to some specific words you used in your email, but which have no relationship to the actual questions in your email.

Part of the problem here is that the term "craft" has become somewhat degraded. When the word "craft" is used to describe both toilet paper cozies and a fabulous handmade sweater or chair of original design, it's only reasonable for people to want to find a way to distinguish the best of the category. But that doesn't mean the sweater or chair are works of art (though they could be) — they are probably only works of fine craftsmanship.

I agree with this very much. Quality craftsmanship is valuable in and of itself, and no less so than art, whatever that might be. Even words like 'artisanal', which previously covered some of that territory of 'high-quality, creative craftsmanship' are becoming seriously degraded; see Wendy's 'artisan bread' as an example.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:04 AM on January 8, 2008


There's probably a lot more to say about craft versus art, and meaning in and out of context—historical and otherwise—and subjectivity, and who is the arbiter?, and blah-blahblah-bla-blah.

If Jeff Koons* crafted a butter churn out of pure titanium is that more art than craft? If it actually churned butter, would that ruin it? How about if it churned kittens that then came out in the shape of crucifixes? If he made it out of wood, then what? If it was in a gallery, or museum, or in a catalog, or in an ArtForum feature, what then? If some random Quaker from rural Pennsylvania did it, how would that change it, or would it? If it was stolen, then showed up as an addition to the collection at the Met?

What if it wasn't a titanium butter churn at all, but was instead a yarn cannolli? What if Marina Abramovic ate it?

Where's Hilton Cramer when you need him?

*Whether Jeff Koons is an artist or not is a separate argument.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2008


For me, art is what is presented as art and meant to be discussed as art.

A couple of helpful caveats about the usage of the word "art":

First, often "art" is a value judgment along with a descriptor. "Art"/"not art" fills in for "good"/"bad." Second, there's a gulf between "art" and "fine art," and many times people assume the latter when the former is more apt. I have no problem calling Gastonguay's work art, but I'd blanch at calling it fine art—frankly, I don't feel like Gastonguay's work would hold up to most critiques.

Something else that confounds this is that craft should be part of art, and is even more important in fine art, where it should be an intentional and successful expression of complex ideas through the mastery of materials. As cutesy foods go, she's kind of explored all that there is there, and there's no real reason to return to this work—it's not going to suddenly reveal a more complex interpretation upon revisit or further contemplation.

It's also worth noting that this is all pretty much the hallmark of graphic design, something that is rather rightly separated from art (which is not to say that the techniques of graphic design can't be applied to fine art, or that the aesthetics aren't related): the emphasis in Gastonguay's pieces is very much on the technique and the interest, at least for me, is all related to the use of her craft. The actual message only impacts the craft of graphic design by way of questions about functionality, rather than transcendence.

Another related test is to wonder whether Gastonguay's work would be interesting at all if it were shoddily made; a good deal of art-from-ideas could (and is) expressed through substandard craftsmanship, whereas craft and graphic design are interesting even if the idea is pointless or shallow or what-have-you. See the salt cellars of rococo art for examples of fine craft that is not fine art.
posted by klangklangston at 12:30 PM on January 8, 2008


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