Rowan Gallery unravels social issues with yarn display


Those who have walked down Rowan Boulevard recently may have noticed various bike racks, garbage cans, lamp posts and benches are adorned with colorful materials. This community yarn bombing is an extension of the exhibit “Between the Threads,” set to open this Thursday, Nov. 17.

“Between the Threads” features art created by the six female artists April Dauscha, Nancy Davidson, Melissa Maddonni Haims, Jesse Harrod, Elizabeth Mackie and Diane Savona. They use traditionally domestic materials, such as yarn, string, hair and thread, to take a look at ideas of gender and sexuality for women.

Gallery and Exhibitions Program Director Mary Salvante was interested in doing an exhibit about gender to follow her theme for the year of social issues.

“Our first exhibition of the year was an installation exhibition by Dread Scott and his work was focused on the disproportionate number of blacks in prison compared to whites,” Salvante said. “This show, I wanted it to be different and a departure from that kind of heavy-handed kind of exhibition to something more visually accessible. The idea of looking at gender issues seemed an appropriate move forward away from the concepts that were in Dread Scott’s show.”

As Salvante was putting together the gallery, she began to consider yarn bombing the outside of the exhibit, something she knew one of her artists did in the past with various communities. After meeting with Creative Glassboro, a group that works to bring art and culture to downtown Glassboro, it was decided the yarn bombing would take place in front of the gallery as well as Rowan Boulevard, which they called “Yarn It!”.

“We saw it as something that would be fun, that people of all walks of life would enjoy,” Salvante said. “It wasn’t too esoteric as contemporary art can be. It doesn’t mean anything, it just makes people happy.”

Several lamp posts, garbage cans, bike racks and benches are covered with colorful materials, all made by community members, students and alumni of Rowan.

“It became a really great collaboration with the community and the university through the work of the students,” Salvante said. “We were really excited we had representation from the community and the university on this project.”

Multiple patterns and designs are on display for people walking down Rowan Boulevard to see. One lamp post has a rainbow sleeve and another one has sunflowers along the sides. A garbage can that has community members talking is one made to look like a snowman. One unique lamp post is covered with material made of plastic bags rather than yarn, courtesy of the Honors Knitting Group.

Hanna Dietrich, a sophomore biomedical engineering major and co-leader of the Honors Knitting Group, explained why they used plastic bags instead of yarn.

“Plastic bags are free,” Dietrich said. “We didn’t have to buy a whole bunch of yarn, which covering an entire lamp post is pretty expensive. Plastic is more weather resistant than other yarns. It’s another way of reusing plastic.”

Dietrich, an avid knitter, was delighted to hear the Rowan University Art Gallery was yarn bombing Rowan Boulevard. She had yarn bombed before, but looked forward to doing it again.

“I was really excited we brought yarn bombing to Rowan,” Dietrich said. “Lots of communities yarn bomb and I feel that yarn bombing Rowan Boulevard creates that community. It also brings something special to the street that is better than just a bunch of lamp posts and bike racks that are all black and kind of boring looking.”

Salvante said “Yarn It!” and “Between the Threads” share similar creation processes: weaving, knitting and crocheting. The two works, however, send different messages to the audience. The yarn bombing is simply fun to look at, but the pieces in “Between the Threads” make social commentary about gender.

“[‘Between the Threads’] takes it to another level in that these artists are making observations and comments about female gender and perceptions about behavior and characteristics,” Salvante said. “The work flips that narrative and makes more proactive statements about gender issues because the practice of knitting, weaving and crocheting is a very passive, domestic process. The pieces present women as strong and independent and using their sexuality as an image of strength and power.”

“Yarn It!” will be up through the beginning of January. “Between the Threads” holds its opening reception on Nov. 17 and will remain open through Jan. 7.

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