Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women

March 12, 2021 – August 15, 2021

Emma Amos, Winning, 1982, acrylic on linen with hand-woven fabric, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and G Streets, NW
Washington, DC

Floor Plan

The artists in Skilled, Subversive, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women mastered and subverted the everyday materials of cotton, felt, and wool to create deeply personal artworks. This exhibition presents an alternative history of twentieth-century American art by showcasing the work of artists such as Emma Amos, Sheila Hicks, and Faith Ringgold, who, stitch by stitch, utilized fiber materials to express their personal stories and create resonant and intricate artworks.

The thirty-four selected artworks piece together an alternative history of American art. Accessible and familiar, fiber handicrafts have long provided a source of inspiration for women. Their ingenuity with cloth, threads, and yarn was dismissed by many art critics as menial labor. The artists in this exhibition took up fiber to complicate this historic marginalization and also revolutionize its import to contemporary art. They drew on personal experiences, particularly their vantage points as women, and intergenerational skills to transform humble threads into resonant and intricate artworks.