Photo by Rink via SFBAYTIMES
Art is often controversial. The crocheted penises of Jack Davis are no exception as you might imagine given the subject matter. Luckily this man is located in the very forgiving city of San Francisco where his art doesn’t raise as many eyebrows as it might in other areas. I found out about his work because he has a gallery show in San Francisco at Magnet in the Castro that lasts through the end of February. I didn’t know about it until after the reception and haven’t seen it yet but hope to check it out before it closes.
About Crochet Artist Jack Davis
Although my own awareness of the crocheted artwork of Jack Davis is new, the artist’s work is not. He has been making crocheted penises since the 1970’s. The SF Bay Times has a good article about the history of his work. Some highlights about Jack and his work:
- Davis got a Masters Degree in art with a focus on fiber art. Crocheted penises were part of his graduate show. What’s really interesting is that he was doing this work as a gay man at a time when fiber arts were dominated by women. Apparently many of those women were claiming their feminine power with fiber works of female genitalia which is what got him interested in crocheting penises. He hoped it would make men feel good about themselves.
- Davis’s first California show was in 1983. It was of his crocheted penises. It was held at Good Vibrations, the adult store that remains a popular place for art openings to this day. He has had many other shows in the SF Bay Area since.
- Davis has made and sold his work since 1975. He doesn’t have an exact number of crocheted penises that he’s sold but it’s several hundred and possibly in the thousands.
- One interesting fact about his work is that he’s faced discrimination as a male artist who does crochet work. The article in the SF Bay Times relates a great story: “I once accidentally stabbed my finger with a very fine gauge crochet hook. Joe, my boyfriend at the time and my roommate, Sue, took me to the hospital to have it removed. The emergency room staff could not take in the fact that I had been crocheting; they really wanted to believe that my female roommate had stabbed me with what they assumed was her crochet hook.”
More about the crochet penises
This is certainly an interesting subject to take on as a crochet artist and to do repeatedly over the course of more than thirty years. Some things to know about the work:
- Davis used to do really large scale pieces that required a loom. He wanted to switch to simpler work requiring only a crochet hook. He still does some pieces that are large. His larger pieces can take several months to make. However, he primarily makes small crocheted penises that take about three hours each to crochet.
- Davis is a green artist at least some of the time, using found objects to create his artwork. He takes apart thrift store sweaters and uses the yarn to crochet with. He uses found objects to embellish some of his pieces.
- Davis uses many different types of yarn in his work. He likes cotton, silk and wool as well as synthetic yarns. He is willing to also crochet with nontraditional items like sewing thread and even colored telephone wire. Right now, though, he’s preferring recycled silk as his yarn of choice.
- The penises have a drawstring in them so they can be used as containers. They are not, however, intended to be cozies or warmers for real men to wear. Davis doesn’t use models to show them off, either. He hangs them as art and stuffs them with plastic Easter eggs to put them on display.
My favorite examples of Jack’s crochet art
Here are some of the images of Jack’s work. It comes from the site of the photographer Mark I. Chester. I encourage you to check out the full site to see all of the work.
I’m intrigued by the choice of pink for the color here.
I love the photographer’s perspective on this photo of the crochet art!
This one is embellished with buttons. I love using buttons in crochet which is why it caught my eye.
Question of the day
Davis makes a really interesting point about the experience of crocheting the same item over and over again. He notes that there’s a challenge in creating the same shape and yet making it unique, something that you can see when the items are on display together in a gallery. The question is, what do you think would be the pros and cons of crocheting the same item over and over again for years?