The Case for Contemporary Craft - Liisa Hietanen and Crocheted Portraiture

 
Raija | Liisa Hietanen | 2018

Raija | Liisa Hietanen | 2018

 

It is known that it has been hard for artists working with “non-fine arts” materials to break through the barrier to becoming noticed as a true fine artist, at least when it comes to the world of the art gallery or museum. While the barrier has come down somewhat within our contemporary time, artists who work in textiles, metalwork, woodwork, etc. can see themselves being under-represented in the museum space.

Man on a Bench | Duane Hanson | 1977

Man on a Bench | Duane Hanson | 1977

For soft sculpture artist, Liisa Hietanen, she has found alternative ways for individuals in her community to see her crocheted portraitures. Hietanen sees importance in engaging with the people in her community of Hämeenkyrö, Finland where she finds her models for her crocheted sculptures. When I came across Hietanen’s work, I was reminded of the lifelike sculptures done by Duane Hanson who also uses an unconventional art material — wax. The thing about her work though, is that the crochet work makes it feel so much more personal. She has even said this about her process on her website. Her Villagers project has allowed her to interact with people in her community whom she may have never talked to before. While the comfort I associate with crochet work gives me a sense of familiarity with these unfamiliar faces, I also find pleasure in knowing that Hietanen made the unfamiliar familiar to herself in the process.

I have always thought of art as one of the greatest processes of self-expression. I can see how Hietanen’s artwork embodies her own self-expression. Something that I feel needs to be recognized when it comes to “non-fine art” materials, is the amount of effort and heart that goes into it. It’s personal, vulnerable, and authentic. It also allows for a connection between people who may have never considered themselves an artist, but also participate in a functional or utilitarian craft. The stigma that surrounds putting these types of works in a gallery space should soon be extinguished, but in the meantime, Liisa Hietanen is successfully making waves in her home town of Hämeenkyrö where her crocheted sculptures can be seen in a variety of public places and gallery spaces.

Below you can see more of Liisa Hietanen’s beautiful crochet work!

What type of art would you like to see more of in the museum and gallery space?