Thursday afternoon, Art IN HOUSE panel discussion
TODAY, PANEL DISCUSSION: IN HOUSE exhibit features knitting and art from around the household
Using a skill she learned as a child, artist Alex Peyton-Levine is exploring herself and helping others explore the craft of knitting as a way to make fine art.
Her artist-in-residence is through Oct. 21 at Presbyterian College, and the knitting circles that the artist facilitates are being live-streamed, so people around the world can look in. Another live-streaming allows people at PC’s Elizabeth Stone Harper Gallery to see the work of Michelle Grabner, curator of the exhibit IN HOUSE which runs until Nov. 30 in the gallery.
Peyton-Levine tried one of Grabner’s technique for producing a circular wall-hanging, and has four attempts on display along with Grabner’s work. The “edge to edge” knitting is still a work in progress for Peyton-Levine, who became interested in knitting when she watched large-scale knitting, a technique that uses a person’s arms as the needles.
Picking up knitting as a child, Peyton-Levine readily says she is not a master knitter. She wants people from the Clinton community who are avid knitters to sit in on the knitting circles she is facilitating in the gallery.
“Knitting circles are a form of revolution and reform, an engagement of people,” she said. “I have never been here before. I’m anxious to know who these people are and what they value. We’ve had people come by who have never knitted before.”
PC students stopping by on Thursday said knitting is therapeutic, a respite from writing papers and making presentations. It is a manual activity - repetitive in its form, and Peyton-Levine said it is a craft-art that women were able to master, create and sell.
Then came machines to do the sewing, and that changed the whole dynamic, Peyton-Levine said. Now, people are gravitating back to the home-made, by-hand crafted items, and women are expanding their horizons in carpentry and metal-working. And, still, clearing the mind, working the needle, hearing the click-click of a master knitter at work, doing the same thing over and over, and talking to other people doing the same thing is pure art at work, she says.
“it is repetitive, therapeutic. It’s like doodling,” said Peyton-Levine, a trained painter who has expanded her vision into mixed media and forming art on-site. “It is mind-body, a shared experience, and you can relate to that person (other knitters in the circle).”
It’s also free-flowing. PC students come from class, to the circle, knit then flow out to class or meals or study. There’s tea by the Kuerig and muffins to munch. Yarn is all over the floor, and art is on the walls.
The IN HOUSE exhibit, that Peyton-Levine’s residency is part of, asks the question, Are things you see around the house every day, art? Looking out the front window of a house, is that art? A bedspread - is it art? A fan spread into a circle - is it art? If a person tears the guts out of a house and puts it all back together again - is that art, or a craft? And, any way, what’s the difference, if any?
“I take a painter’s approach. I am always interested in color and composition,” said Peyton-Levine, who has migrated from New Hampshire-Massachusetts to Oregon, and then to Chicago for masters study, and now to Clinton. “With knitting, I sit and work on specific art. (In the company of other knitters) I honor them with my presence and my time.”