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Mark Newport: Self-Made Man
August 26, 2009


Mark Newport, Batman 2

Mark Newport, Batman 2

"How does a guy who doesn't like to be in public end up on stage in a full-body acrylic costume knitting things?" asks fiber artist Mark Newport, one of the four artists in Staged Stories, this year's Renwick Craft Invitational. If, like me, you were stumped by that question, then you'll want to spend time with Newport's work, which takes a clever look at gender stereotypes and the role of superheroes and plain ordinary men in everyday life. As with the other artists included in the biennial who are storytellers as well as object makers, let's just say: this isn't your father's craft show. There's not a functional object in sight.

Newport, in a well-attended talk this month in the Renwick's Grand Salon, spoke about his early life in a family of knitters and also his formative creations, such as the beaded football cards he made in 1995. What could be more hypermasculine and, according to the artist, "represent what a man should be" than a sports trading card? Add a few knitted flourishes, and the card becomes a study in contradictions, what Newport calls, "a challenging read to expectations."

What makes a man is the question that's asked repeatedly in Newport's work, where different superheroes often take center stage: from Batman (whom Newport calls his "patron saint hero") to Superman, to the invented Argyle Man, Sweater Man, and Y Man (or is it Why Man?), in honor of the chromosome that makes a man a man. Newport takes thread, spins yarns, and makes us look differently at the world around us. His larger-than-life creations further defy expectations because they are also slump a bit, in opposition to the buff, superhero body expected to fill the costume: more geek than Greek as it were.

In a Q and A at the end of the presentation, one man talked about his own experiences with knitting, "I taught my boys how to knit. It's very under the rug." Perhaps, with Newport's help, more men may be encouraged to take up needles and practice what Newport slyly referred to as "the manly art of knitting."

Want to try your hand (or hands) at knitting? Newport has begun a piece that is in the Renwick's Interactive Gallery and is waiting for visitors to help complete. And, beginning September 1 (check calendar for repeated dates), the Renwick will present a Sit 'n Knit in the same space where you learn more about the art of knitting from experts. On September 25, Newport and the other artists in the Invitational will hold a round-table discussion to talk about their work and inclusion in Staged Stories.


Posted by Howard on August 26, 2009 in American Art Here


Comments

Hello, it's a very great costume, I want it ! :D

Well I'm just browsing through the internet to find some batman costume for my 10 year old son as he wants to be only a Batman at the approaching Halloween party :). But I definitely don't like the idea that I would need to knit that whole thing. I've read a couple nice articles about batman costumes history at and and I think they look a bit different than the one on your site. :) But this is probably just a joke right? :)

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