When I first profiled the work of super unique crochet artist Patricia Waller I called her the creepy cute crochet artist. That’s because she takes these super cute iconic images, like Bambi, and crochets them with these really dark undertones. She’s taken that to a whole new level with her most recent exhibit.
Waller’s current exhibit is at the Deschler Gallery in Berlin. It’s called Broken Heroes and it features superheroes from fairy tales and pop culture that have been transformed in strange, dark ways but are still super cute. For example, there’s Ernie (of Bert and Ernie) except that this Ernie is drunk on a sidewalk. And there’s the Sandman, that imaginary man who brings us sleep, except he’s lost in his own pill-popping dreamworld.
First, the Heroes
So what’s this all about? Well, the heroes in Patricia Waller’s world are media icons that represent the whole idea of the celebrity or pop culture star as the modern day hero. Celebrity is such a core feature of today’s society. But with “real people” celebrities, like flesh and blood movie stars, we are fully aware of their flaws. Cartoon celebrities, like Ernie, are one-dimensional characters that can serve as our heroes because they are familiar faces that most of us know and yet we can project certain idealized traits upon them because they aren’t real.
Now, the Broken Part
It’s the utter darkness of what’s happening to these cute familiar characters that brings meaning into Patricia Waller’s work. Winnie the Pooh might have some problems to overcome as he hunts for honey but none of us expects to see him hanging a society that creates stars and then puts a lot of pressure on them. So, for example, she says about her Spiderman piece … “Enmeshed in his own life, there is no way out. The more he tries to disentangle himself, the more he is caught up in it, without hope of redemption.” He’s a flawed hero.
And the Crochet
Waller chooses crochet because it’s a medium she knows and likes. But I think there’s also a whole other level of meaning to her work because it’s done in crochet. Crochet has always been considered a women’s craft and so this medium injects a level of the female role in society as it relates to stardom and heroes. The gender issue is played out by her crocheted subjects … Female Hello Kitty commits suicide by stabbing and Minnie Mouse is raped and left bleeding whereas male Spongebob commits a suicide bombing and Superman slams into a building.
What are your thoughts? Can you stomach this intense crochet art?