Craftswomanship at Pro Arts 

Concept + Craft interweaves tradition and innovation.


While computers will certainly help shape the future of art, today's technology-based art sometimes seems so enamored of its cool toys and arcane methodologies that aesthetic effect seem almost an afterthought. Concept + Craft, curated by Danielle Fox and Alice Lehrer of Slate Art and Design, takes a resolutely aesthetic, corporeal look at the "women's work" craft tradition — including sewing, weaving, spinning, stitching, ironing, and basketry — as it has evolved, influenced by Minimalism, Land Art, Pattern and Decoration Painting, Conceptualism, and, of course, Feminism.

Mung Lar Lam, Jessica Martin, Caroline Seckinger, Patricia Thomas, Anna Von Mertens, and Alicia Woods explore a number of topical issues with elegance and intelligence — and seriously great craftspersonship. Lam's military uniforms and blankets ("Multi Terrain") and ironed, pleated swatches of camo-colored cloth ("Ironing") are as neat as any Sergeant Major could wish, but art vets would see them as drawing from performance, process art, and geometric abstraction. Martin's wall-hung wire sculpture, "Nest," suggests an X-ray view of an animal's burrow enclosing translucent oblong eggs, or perhaps an abstracted brain hatching thought bubbles. Seckinger's "The Wedding Bowl," large as a hot tub, with an interior of nacreous aluminum sheets and an exterior of white rabbit pelts, suggests both bowl and boat (i.e., circular coracle); with neither bow or stern, it's a fitting matrimonial vessel. Her deconstructed wedding dresses ("Bones"), all skeletonic seams, and her woven piece, "Penelope," alluding to clever Ulysses' crafty wife undoing each day's weaving, deal with the marital arts. The latter repurposes cloth from Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "Running Fence," as does "Sleeping Beauty," with its gossamer coils under bell jars.

Thomas takes fairy tales into the woods of the subconscious with "Death Bride," a tulle bridal veil/shroud festooned with rose thorns, and "Kingdom Done," a treelike construction comprised of chandeliers coated in coal-black yarn and metal crowns wrapped in gold-thread spider web. Von Mertens' quilt, "A Sunrise You Might See...," depicts the sky at dusk, with star patterns from 2007 and 2082 superimposed. Woods collapses time in another fashion, repurposing obsolete cassette/reel-to-reel tape and fiber-optic cable for baskets based on archaic Cycladic and Phoenician prototypes, some of the electromagnetically charged oxide undoubtedly retaining data from the last millennium. Fox's notes on the artworks, incidentally, are a model of clarity and concision. Film screening and discussion on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 1 p.m. Concept + Crafts runs through October 23 at Pro Arts Gallery (150 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland). 510-763-4361 or

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