Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nathan Vincent—Artist Peacock in NYC

Nathan Vincent is a talented artist and peacock (see photo below) who creates thought provoking art pieces, with an underlying sense of humor. To convey his artistic message, Nathan uses techniques usually identified as feminine, such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, and applique to create objects which are typically identified with men: a tool belt, a deer head trophy (see photo above), or even a urinal.

This juxtaposition of stereotypes, between his subject matter and process, evokes many different issues surrounding gender. The moment Mr. Peacock saw Nathan’s work he was impressed by the message, and by the detailed technique of each piece. Mr. Vincent is currently based in New York City.

Above, left to right: These aren't your grandmother's doilies! Underwear (crocheted cotton thread, framed-18" x 18.75"), 2007; Wrench (crocheted cotton thread, framed- 12.5" x 21.25'), 2007; and Men Working (crocheted cotton thread, framed-23.25" x 23.5"), 2007.

Mr. Peacock: How would you describe your own style?
Nathan Vincent: My style is somewhat eclectic—hipster meets preppy meets industrial urban. I feel it changes daily but always seems to portray an aspect of my personality.

MP: How old were you when you realized you were a peacock?
NV: I would say I was about 23 or 24 before I started caring. As a teenager I was gawky, nerdy, and always wore ill-fitting clothing. I also had a bowl cut! In college my attire consisted solely of t-shirts and jeans with holes and paint on them. It wasn't until I was out in the working world that I started to even consider clothing. For the first year or two, while working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was still wearing baggy dress pants and button ups that didn't really match my body type. I started to experiment with ties when I got bored. I tried skinny ties, bright pinks and purples, paisleys, etc. People started to look forward to seeing which tie I would wear to work. As I progressed through my jobs, I was able to adopt a more casual look and arrived at the style where I am today.

MP: Who is your style icon?
NV: (Crickets chirping)...drawing a blank here.

Above: Beer bottles and crushed beer cans. Beer (crocheted yarn and polyester stuffing-12" x 9" x 12'), 2005.

MP: Who or what has influenced your style?
NV: New York City sidewalks, bars and galleries are the catwalks I watch for inspiration. I occasionally pick up a men's fashion magazine. Beyond that, I read design and crafting blogs.

MP: Where did you grow up?
NV: I grew up in Oklahoma and Michigan, went to school in CA for two years, and spent a summer in Kansas before settling here in New York.

Above: Nathan crocheting a piece for his Doily Series.

MP: When did you start crocheting?
NV: I started when I was about ten. I started an afghan of granny squares, but never finished. Thankfully I gave up on it because the colors were hideous!

MP: Did the women in your family crochet? If so, did they teach you?
NV: My mother can knit and crochet, and she taught me how to crochet. I learned knitting from a book.

Above: Every peacock needs a Nathan Vincent briefcase—with paisley lining and a quilted newspaper. Briefcase (crocheted yarn, foam, wire, fabric and polyester stuffing-20" x 14" x 9"), 2004.

MP: What's your work process?
NV: I sometimes sketch things out, but mainly I just look at reference photos and start sculpting the armature. Then I crochet pieces to fit around that. Occasionally, I just crochet the piece and then stuff it with polyester stuffing to keep its shape.

Above: The iconic gasoline-powered lawn mower as interpreted by Nathan Vincent. Lawn Mower (crocheted yarn, wire, polyester stuffing and wood-45" x 18" x 34"), 2004.

MP: You address gender in your art by juxtaposing masculine "things" with a female identified craft—has it made you appreciate and respect the "feminine" identified crafts?
NV: I have always respected crafts, and adore yarn and needle crafts in particular. The idea of creating something from a single strand of yarn is amazing. The fact that it is considered feminine and/or less respectable is why I started this art project.

Above: Nathan looking very dapper in a khaki suit and woven hat.

MP: Your large-scale pieces are very labor intensive, how do you balance your work time and your free time, to stay focused on completing the large-scale pieces?
NV: I have had a full time job while working on my artwork since graduating college. Most of my crocheting has been in the evenings and on the weekends. It would be wonderful to have time off of work to be able to focus on my upcoming exhibition full time. I have been able to balance my time pretty well. I set deadlines and goals for myself to make sure I complete work so they don't end up unfinished in a pile somewhere. It also helps that I often have three ideas going in my head at the same time. The desire to get started on the next piece motivates me to complete the current work.

Above: The ultimate symbol of masculinity—the urinal. Nathan's crocheted urinal even has pink sanitizing cake in the basin. Urinal (crocheted yarn, foam, wire and polyester stuffing-48" x 17" x 8"), 2004.

MP: What piece of yours has garnered the most reaction from viewers?
NV: I would say the Urinal has been the most popular, closely followed by the Deer Head. People are often in awe when they see the Urinal, as it is pretty much the last thing you expect to see in crochet. But if you go by the request for patterns (people are eager to make their own version of my works, but need a pattern to do it) the Deer Head would win. Two thirds of the requests for patterns have been for the Deer Head. Lots of people want to crochet a taxidermy deer for their living room or someone they love. I think this just goes to show how deeply the work resonates with people. They too remember a certain someone in their family who displayed his masculinity through trophies.

MP: Do you have a favorite piece, so far?
NV: My favorite piece is always the one I just finished. But, the Deer Head will always have a special place in my heart. When I sold that piece it was so hard to let it go. He had been hanging in my room for almost a year and I got to look at him every morning as I woke up. I became very attached.

Above: Nathan growling with his bear rug.

MP: Any exhibits or shows coming up?
NV: I am showing work in November at Lion Brand Yarn's studio/store on 15th street in Manhattan. And, next year I have an exhibition in Virginia where I plan to show a complete locker installation, which Lion Brand is providing the yarn for. I'll be building a drywall construction with all crocheted furnishings. When you walk in you will see a crocheted urinal, crocheted toilet stalls with crocheted toilets. There will be a wall of fiber shower heads and knobs and even crocheted drains on the floor. And finally, a wall of lockers and a bench.

Above: The claws on this bear are talon-like beads. Bear Rug (crocheted and latch hooked yarn, stone beads and taxidermy insert-6' x 6'), 2005.

Conceptually, the piece is referring to the "temple of masculinity" and how it is a societal construct. The crocheted items inside move the viewer to question why such a space is considered to be manly. Often times locker rooms are considered to be the safe space, the place where men go to get ready to be rough and tough, or to clean and primp before going back out to the real world. In actuality, it is riddled with judgment, comparing, showing off (much like a peacock) and feelings of inadequate masculinity.

Above: The ultimate peacock tool belt—drill, pliers, screwdriver, measuring tape and hammer! Toolbelt (crochet yarn, wire, polyester stuffing, fabric and mannequin belt-18" x 14"), 2004.

Mr. Peacock is in awe of Nathan’s talent and also his tenacity to complete these complex and large-scale projects. In addition to Nathan Vincent, Mr. Peacock has introduced you to a few other men who knit and crochet, including: Andrew in Cincinnati and René in Berlin. I’m grateful to all of these peacocks for challenging societies idea of what is masculine or feminine—simply by being creative. Nathan was recently on the "yarn themed” episode of the Martha Stewart Show. You can watch a videos of the show right here, click on "Manly Crocheted Items" on the right side menu, to watch Nathan's segment. He was also one of the ten finalists of the West Collection's West Prize. If you’re in New York City this coming November, be sure to see Nathan’s artwork in person at his show at Lion Brand Yarn. Mr. Peacock is looking forward to seeing (at least photos) of Nathan's locker room installation next year. And be sure to take a peek at his website—there's more projects to see, and you can sign-up for his mailing list. Thank you Nathan!


Michael said...

The Urinal piece is great.

Guy said...

Ha - fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Amazing work! Thanks so much for this post.....

Angela said...

Originally, did you think of creating masculine objects in a feminine way first and then set out to find the medium? or was it the other way around? said...

I suppose one and all should browse on it.

tim said...

vote for him at future of the city award..