L.J. Roberts

L.J. Roberts holds a MFA in Fine Arts and MA in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Their completed a BA in Studio Art and a BA in English from the University of Vermont. Their studio practice primarily consists of large-scale site-specific knitted installations created with children’s toy knitting cranks. Their installations occasionally include guerilla actions. Their work has been shown most recently at The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Folk Art, Southern Exposure, Naomi Arin Contemporary Art, The Bellevue Arts Museum, Grizzly Grizzly, The Leslie/Lohman Gallery for Gay Art, A.I.R. Gallery, and Page Bond Gallery.

L.J. also maintains a critical writing practice that bridges craft and queer theory. Their writing can be found in the anthology Extra/Ordinary: Craft Culture in Contemporary Art published by Duke University Press. They were the past co-chair of the Queer Caucus for Art, an affiliate of the College Art Association. They recently organized, along with collaborators Ted Kerr and Quito Ziegler, a three part discussion and screening series entitled Not Over: You, Me, Us and AIDS with the support of Visual AIDS.

L.J. was the past recipient of the Ian Crawford Memorial Award, The Ora Mary Pelham Poetry Prize, the Toni Lowenthal Memorial Scholarship, a Murphy Cadogan Fellowship, the Dennis Leon Award, a Craft Research Fund Graduate Grant from the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, and a 2008 Searchlight Artist Award from the American Craft Council, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and they were a 2009 Smack Mellon Hot Pick Artist. L.J. was a 2009 Artist-in-Residence at The Museum of Arts and Design in New York City and at Leake and Watts, a non-profit in The Bronx. Most recently L.J. was the 2010-2011 Fountainhead Fellow/Emerging Artist-in-Residence in the Craft/Materials Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. Their work will appear next in Craft Futures: 40 Under 40 at the Renwick Gallery of The Smithsonian American Art Museum. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, they currently live and work in Brooklyn, NY.

More information can be found at www.laceyjaneroberts.com

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About L.J. Roberts’ Thesis Project

L.J. Roberts

In the Making: Rhetoric of Craft

In the past decade, several prominent American cultural and educational institutions have dropped the word craft from their names. Why do they deem this word inappropriate or undesirable? To understand why craft has become so troubling within the institutional framework of material culture, one must interrogate its current linguistic and cultural meanings. By historically and critically unraveling the many definitions of craft and the rhetoric that forms them, a web of hierarchies is revealed that links this contentious term with specific notions of socioeconomic status, race, gender, and queerness. These associations have led some to regard craft unfavorably while providing others with an empowering space in which to work.This study reveals how the contemporary categorical triad of design, art, and craft emerged to become the most prevalent classification system in contemporary material culture. Specifically I focus on how the rhetoric of the constructed category of craft was displaced and came to occupy a space of otherness and nonnormativity. Rather than accepting this marginalization as negative, contemporary craft criticism can in fact benefit from insights gleaned from the field of queer theory, which has employed its otherness as an agent to reclaim and proliferate a culturally denigrated rhetoric—as well as an actual identity.

This project establishes a historical framework, examining the rise of industrial capitalism, William Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement, subsequent splinter craft movements, and the aesthetic tenets of Modernism using Marxist, feminist, and poststructuralist theory. An examination of the rhetorics of craft illuminates how and why many forms of craft are pushed into stagnant, repetitive stereotypes that are fixed and subsequently denied growth. Finally, borrowing a template from queer theory, the project proposes a new and progressive critical craft theory that is able to represent diverse experience while avoiding rigidity and stagnation.

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