“It is, in fact, the haptic, or touchable, nature of fiber art that throws off most art critics: they are only comfortable with the optic, granting tactile values a very low position on the aesthetic totem pole. In fiber art one cannot avoid the haptic and the haptic/optic conflict or, more graciously, the haptic/optic interplay. How fiber art looks is only part of the picture.
Thus it is awkward, to say the least, that the English language and most particularly the critical language, is haptic-poor. Poetry can sometimes make amends, but is in itself an extremely specialized discourse, prone to enthusiasm at the expense of illumination. In the past the art critical language has been applied to some rather outrageous art: Earth Art, Anti-Form, Performance, Body Art, Conceptual Art, Patterning and Decoration. From this it may be gathered that any material criterion for art has been dislodged. Futurism and Dada insisted that art could be made of anything. If a pile of dirt, in certain cases, can be art, then why not a pile of fibers? If art can be made on a printing press, then why not on a loom? If art can be made by tossing molten lead against a wall, then why not by knotting threads? If art can quote the great “crafts” traditions, why cannot present day explorations of these materials and techniques be art too?”
then-Visual Arts Director, The Cultural Center
Staten Island, New York
From “Fiber Art: Gathering the Strands,” Fiber r/evolution, Milwaukee Art Museum, 1986