Gender and Art

June 13, 2017

An Arkansas Democrat newspaper article by The Women's Writer, Marlane McLain Davis, titiled "Needlework is a man's work too", appeared in the "Today's Women" section of the Sunday February 11, 1973 edition. The opening paragraph asked the question What do a salesman, a mechanical engineer, a doctor and four college students have in common? The question was answered "Needlecraft". Ms Davis interviewed each of the seven as just a few of the many men discovering needlecrafts as a relaxing hobby or as an avenue of artistic expression. Today, these fall into the "fiberart" category Ms Davis also visited  and interviewed a couple of yarn and needlepoint shop owners. At one shop, she was told that while most customers are women, about one in ten are men. The other shop owner said while most often, men do needlepoint, but, she also sees them knit, crochet, and macrame. She also said "When you have men who o needlework, they are usually so precise and exact that they turn out excellent work.  The doctor, salesman and engineer all used needlepoint as a relaxing way to pass the time and make something decorative. According to the article, the four college students were referred by Ida Rogers, one of the Associate Art Professors at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She told the staff writer that several of her male students were doing various crafts such as macrame in cord, leather and plastic, and one was working on a rug. That rug student was yours truly. It was the seventies and shag carpet was the "in thing". I decided to make a small, 2' x 3', rug for my class project. I chose bright green and bright red yarn. I strung the yarn on a frame in perpendicular rows which when tied and cutj,makes squares of each color. In  the interview, I told her that I have been working with my hands for several years, and have no particular trouble with fiberart projects. I learned to sew from my mother and grandmother.

 While pondering an interaction where gender and art intersect, my personal experience came to mind. I hunted for the article, read it to refresh my memory and started writing. I thought of Professor Rogers who was one of my favorite teachers. She was a wonderful lady who always had words of encouragement. She taught thousands of students in her lifetime. I became more inquistive and Googled her. I found a photo on line or her tomstone. It is simple and in addition to her name, the inscription states "ARTIST AND POET",  August 27,1904 - September 26, 1997. She was much more to those who knew her. You may wonder why this matters. It matters to me. She helped mold me into the person I am today.

 

 

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KENNETH CRAIG PRUITT