These characters are childhood memories of the ultimate man – the Dad every boy wants, the man every boy wants to grow up to be. My hand knit acrylic re-creations of these heroes’ costumes combine their heroic, protective, ultra masculine, yet vulnerable personas with the protective gestures of my mother – hand knit acrylic sweaters meant to keep me safe from New England winters. The costumes are life-size, my size, wearable objects that hang limply on hangers challenging the standard muscular form of the hero and offering the space for someone to imagine themselves wearing the costume, becoming the hero. They become the uniforms I can wear to protect my family from the threats (bullies, murderers, terrorists, pedophiles, and fanatical messianic characters) we are told surround us.
The Sweatermen, Every-Any-No Man, and Bobbleman are heroes of my own invention. They push the image of the hero by highlighting knitting materials, textures, and traditions (cables and the use of “ends” to make a sweater) in the form of the costume. Some of the color and texture choices are based on the sweaters my mother made, her love of cables and her color choices. In these I work to forge the link between childhood experience and an adult understanding of protection, masculinity, and heroism.
Performances, prints, and photographs are my opportunity to expand the narratives the suits suggest to me. While earlier works in print and photography focused on the hero in the costume, where and how he functions, these pieces start to explore the alter ego within the costume and the connotations of knitting in relation to various roles and activities. Knitting remains the questionable activity for the protagonist while costumes change to more socially accepted garb. In each scenario the knitting seems out of place or defensive. Is the man in “Pick-Up” attracting or repelling the woman speaking to him with his knitting? How do these different stereotypes of men relate to an activity like knitting?
Mark Newport is an artist and educator living in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Newport’s work has been exhibited throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including solo exhibitions at The Arizona State University Art Museum; The Cranbrook Art Museum; The Chicago Cultural Center; and Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, MO. His work has been recognized with grants from the Creative Capital Foundation, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the Herberger College of Arts at Arizona State University. It is included in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art; The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; The Cranbrook Art Museum; The Racine Art Museum; 4Culture, Seattle; City of Phoenix Public Art, Microsoft, and Progressive Insurance. The Greg Kucera Gallery, and Lemberg Gallery, represent his work.
Newport is the Artist-in-Residence and Head of Fiber at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He earned his BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1986 and his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1991.
Mark Newport – Bloomfield Hills Michigan