Crystal Gregory loves the materiality of pattern. Deliberately, she chooses materials that physically or emotionally construct domesticity. "Lace is my most valuable inspiration. The language of lace is complicated and delicate: pattern, fragility, negative space, gender, class, non-functional, decorative. Its ability to reveal more than conceal." Through the physical act of drilling to carve intricate shapes rendered raw, Gregory poses questions about perceptions of those same materials employed in her work.
Crystal Gregory, For Jane, 2010. Drywall, 2 x 4, screws, 10’ x 10’. Photograph by Amber Gregory.
A multi-media installation artist, Gregory assembles her work in natural and urban environments, engaging dynamics of intimacy versus architecture. Having taught therapists and women's groups on the meditative potential of art making, Gregory's work shows that "mending and healing are the same thing in different ways". Fiber art has evolved from traditional experiences of community, a sense of which Crystal is currently instilling in her workshops.
With Crochet Graffiti, the act of reclaiming urban landscape transformed spaces typically encumbered with materials that are actually, far from welcoming in their composition: iron, wood, chains. Such are the textures of public security: fences, posts, ownership, the separation of property. With Foundation I and II, and Foot Traffic, Gregory taps into the urban language of tiling. Personally, I'm fascinated by tile because it just might be the digital pixel's predecessor. As a medium, tile has dominated public works longer than public art has been a viable art form. Perhaps cobble stones are even older expressions of the same concept, but tiles prepare the human brain for a relaxed association with pixel as form.
Gregory's recent Department of Transportation commission, Foot Traffic, references that specific patterning of tile, already the dominant aesthetic of New York's underground metro stations. With the crochet shapes of Foot Traffic this form of tiling is embedded outside, in a free-form fence climb. The work addresses the absence of urban warmth. With her work, Gregory investigates layers of history, psychology, gender and class residing at the inception of design as fabrication. Foot Traffic will be on view for the next ten months in Brooklyn. What follows is an edited interview with Crystal Gregory, spanning a particularly dynamic time in her creative process, from July to November of 2010.
Crystal Gregory, Invasive Crochet, 2010. Handmade cotton doilies and razor wire fence, 30’ x 1’ x 1’. Photograph by Amber Gregory.
Patricia: How did you begin to create your work?
Crystal: I think I was always an artist, making craft-based objects as a form of expression. Fiber art is charged in a different way than more traditional art forms such as painting.
I've read about Aran patterns and stitches, and learned that some basic stitches exist in multiple cultures. Stitch patterns evolved from the basic to the complex, but Peruvian knitting has basic stitches in common with Nordic patterns. And that didn't happen from a cross-pollination of culture. It was human evolution. When you say fiber art is charged in an arts context, I'm really curious about what that means in your work.
When I say that fiber art is charged I mean its distinct connotations: craft, class, women, etc. When people see this material, what registers first is not usually the visual, or the idea, but the familiarity of the medium. They recognize something they know as being used in a new way. That is exciting to me because I can twist or imbed materials into new ideas, new sculpture. Fiber art is charged on a micro level: stitching is an intimate personal labor. On an universal level, cloth is a basic life necessity. It's cross-cultural, full of tradition and pattern.