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Joris-Karl Huysmans

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Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848–1907) was a French writer most famous for his Decadent novel À Rebours (Against the Grain) (1884). He began his writing career as a disciple of Émile Zola, who was the leading figure of Naturalism, the dominant French literary movement of the time. Huysmans broke with Naturalism after the publication of Against the Grain, in which he explored everything that was the opposite of Naturalism—artifice, fantasy, the “perverse,” the dark, and the grotesque—thus solidifying the Decadent movement’s style.

In his review of Against the Grain, Barbey d’Aurevilly wrote that after such a book, Huysmans could only choose between the barrel of a gun or the foot of the Cross, which meant that Huysmans would go down the path of debauchery, or else find religion. His prophecy was right, and ultimately Huysmans chose religion. Huysman’s later works are Catholic, as they documented his conversion and increasing interest in religion, and a turning away from the Decadent movement.

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Jean Genet

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Jean Genet (1910–1986) was a poet, novelist, and playwright in the French poète maudite (accursed poet) tradition. He was a thief, hustler, and pimp who turned to writing while he was in prison, much like the Marquis de Sade. Actually, the two are similar in that they wrote to clarify and enlarge sexual fantasies, to pass the many hours of solitude, and to ease the suffering and loneliness of prison. Because of this, they both have styles that are not only characterized by sexual explicitness, but also by plotless, impressionistic scenes upon scenes—a masturbatory kind of writing that is the result of the writer’s emphasis on his own pleasure, rather than that of the reader.

Genet wrote the novels Our Lady of the Flowers (1943), Querelle de Brest (1947), and The Thief’s Journal (1949), among others. Our Lady of the Flowers mixes Catholicism’s iconography and glittering, baroque language with the gay and the criminal. His values and subjects opposed those of dominant society, in his championing of prostitutes, pimps, murderers, and drag queens. He wrote four of his five novels in the 1940s.

In 1949, when his many convictions were leading to life imprisonment, prominent artists and writers of the day (including Sartre and Cocteau) successfully petitioned French president Vincent Auriol to pardon them. In the 1950s he turned to plays that were overtly political, including The Maids (1956), The Balcony (1956), and The Blacks (1958).

Jean Genet’s New York Times obit.

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Gareth Pugh

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Gareth Pugh is a 34-year-old London fashion designer who has been working in the field for twenty years already, having started in theater costuming at 14. Until recently, he has been known for the unwearability of his clothes, which are avant-garde, original, and dark. He experiments with man-made materials and futuristic silhouettes. But, in the last few years, his collections have softened, matured, and become more accessible. Like John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, Pugh produces clothes with a singular vision that surprise, delight, and shock.

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Gareth Pugh Ready To Wear Collection Fall Winter 2014 Paris
Gareth Pugh Ready To Wear Collection Fall Winter 2014 Paris

Zoë Williams

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Zoë Williams is a New York fiber artist who uses felt to make little creatures—sometimes cute, sometimes creepy. Since 2008, she has developed a very consistent and recognizable signature body of work, limiting her palette, almost entirely, to white and gold. Her most captivating—and collectible—art pieces are her white animal heads, in taxidermy-style gilt frames.

In 2012, Anthropologie commissioned her to create art for sale in their catalog. She has a BA in Fine Art from the University of New Orleans, and a Certificate in Fiber Art from the University of Washington. Shop for her art here.

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Inside: Ben Hirschkoff

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Ben Hirschkoff is a Seattle mixed-media artist who has worked in ceramics, collage, painting, and installation. His work reveals a willingness to experiment with a great range of media and styles.

After earning a BA in studio art, he moved to Oakland, where he became involved in the Bay Area punk rock scene. During that formative time, he was influenced by the work of his fellow artists and musicians—in particular, by his friend Karim Shuquem, who, according to Hirschkoff, “was interested in the intersection of art and music, and put on  Art/Music shows in alternative spaces.”

Experiencing these Art/Music events made him realize that “it was always a challenge to integrate the art beyond decor.” This was true of his early ceramic work, which would sit in the background on pedestals and shelves. This led to an interest in larger visual-art installations as a way to make art as immersive and engaging an experience as a musical performance.

Hirschkoff moved to Seattle in 2004 to study ceramics at the University of Washington MFA program. While his ceramics show the influence of punk, the messy materiality of his later paintings and collages—with their paint spatters and drips—echoes Abstract Expressionism Cy Twombly, Philip Guston, and Helen Frankenthaler, among others.

He has exhibited mainly on the west coast of the United States, and he can be placed within that artistic tradition, with his themes of nature on the one hand, and pop simplicity on the other. There is also a west coast irreverence, humor, and absurdity in his ceramics and installations, which he describes as a “heightened sense of falsehood.”

For about a decade, he has been a member of SOIL, an artists’ co-op gallery in Seattle.

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Moxie Lieberman

Moxie is an accomplished Seattle crafter and artist who makes sculpture out of felt. She may be best known for her cute, little, quirky creatures that, on further examination, actually express great pathos. On her website, she writes that she likes to make these “stubby, enfeebled creatures” to explore difficult feelings. She has also made felted replicas of an everyday object, such as a cassette tape or an Etch-a-Sketch, that revel in a simpler time, and convey nostalgia for a 1970s childhood.

Besides having exhibited and taught all over the United States, Moxie has also written a book published by North Lights called I Felt Awesome, has shown at major craft fairs, and is a member artist at SOIL, a co-op gallery in Seattle.

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Jana Brevick

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Jana Brevick is a Seattle artist who works primarily in metalsmithing and jewelry, and has a degree in that field. Brevick also does installations, often combining jewelry with found objects. Her work is often clever, humorously futuristic, tongue-in cheek.

Much of Brevick’s work has revolved around SOIL, a co-op gallery in Seattle, where she has been a member since 2005. Besides having had solo shows, she has also taught craft classes, curated fine-art and craft shows, and had speaking engagements. She is represented by Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery in Seattle.

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A recent The Stranger article about Brevick:

http://www.thestranger.com/feature/2016/03/02/23642396/person-of-interest

A fine article about Brevick’s 2015 Bellevue Arts Museum installation:

https://artjewelryforum.org/exhibition-reviews/do-you-read-me-hal

Nick Cave, Fiber Artist

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“…We’re in a world where we don’t dream anymore.  It’s about survival. I want to get back to that magical place of imagination, memory, nostalgia—based on materials. I want you to be able to walk away from each exhibition and want to come see it again. It’s about provoking thought. That way of thinking and realizing from a subconscious point of view that everything has a second life.” —Nick Cave

Nick Cave is a performer, sculptor, and fiber artist known for his Soundsuits, which are whole-body costumes that often make noise as the wearer moves. He has made at least 500 Soundsuits so far. His credentials include earning a master’s degree from Cranbrook, studying with Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and directing the graduate fashion program at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Click here for his discussion of the Soundsuits with Crystal Bridges Museum.

One inspiration for the Soundsuits are his visits to New York’s American Museum of Natural History, where they have a display of native costumes in the African Peoples Hall:

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Cave collects contemporary African-American art. Here is an article and photos of his private art collection. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery.

Mandy Greer

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Mandy Greer is a well-established, Seattle-based fiber artist who is inspired by nature and the body. Her artwork evokes organic forms such as branches, veins, and lichen. Greer works with teams to crochet large-scale installations that she has shown all over the world, and has also made costumes—one of which was shown at the Frye Museum in Seattle in 2011. She earned an MFA from the University of Washington.

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Degenerate Art Ensemble’s Haruko Nishimura.

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Costume for Degenerate Art Ensemble’s Haruko Nishimura

Greer occasionally offers unique fiber art workshops at her studio in Columbia City, as well as on-demand workshops, if you have a group. Recently, I took a creative weaving workshop with her. In that workshop, she teaches students how to make inexpensive DIY looms that can be affixed to any surface. She also teaches students how to work with basic tools such as a shuttle, a fork as a makeshift beater, and a few basic stitches. She has plenty of wool and tassels to use, and you can also bring your own fibers if you have particular colors or textures you really want to work with.

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Mandy Greer photographs for sale here: http://mandygreer.bigcartel.com/products

Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/people/greermandy?ref=pr_profile

Bookstore on Blurb: http://www.blurb.com/user/store/greermandy

Newsletter: http://mandygreer.org/newletter-sign-up/

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