Olek’s Latest Crochet Controversy: Artist’s Powerful Environmental Statement Too Much for Virginia MOCA

Olek’s Latest Crochet Controversy: Artist’s Powerful Environmental Statement Too Much for Virginia MOCA

“The best art is political and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.” – Toni Morrison

As part of Hi-Fructose‘s “Turn the Page” exhibition, crochet artist Olek was commissioned by the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art to create a larger-than-life installation to convey a message of ocean conservation and to “bring awareness to the impacts littering and pollution.”

For two years, Olek and many volunteers worked tirelessly to execute the artist’s vision through the creation of a crochet “skin” (yarnbomb) to cover a giant King Neptune sculpture situated at the Oceanfront. Last week, Olek came to the conclusion that the piece should include a yarnbombed gas mask to symbolize the fact that the dangers of pollution escape no one, not even a king of the sea such as Neptune.

According to PilotOnline, the original creator of the King Neptune sculpture, Paul DiPasquale, was okay with the idea and signed off.

Crochet artist's King Neptune installation before it was removed by Virginia MOCA.

Crochet artist’s King Neptune installation before it was removed by Virginia MOCA.

The gas mask addition did not sit well with Virginia MOCA officials who ordered that it be removed.

According to a MOCA rep: “While the museum was certainly willing to entertain other ideas and work with Olek to create the appropriate iconology that would convey the message, Olek took liberties beyond the scope of her contract and inserted her personal agenda.”

At least one city official is calling it censorship:

Read Olek’s full statement here.

Who other than the artist should determine the “appropriate iconology” to convey the message?

“If art, all art, is concerned with truth, then a society in denial will not find much use for it.” — Jeanette Winterson

(Photo credits: Bill Tiernan, Virginian-Pilot; Olek)

About The Author


Danielle Holke is a long-time knitter, first taught by her beloved grandmother as a young girl growing up in Canada. In 2008 she launched KnitHacker, a lively blog and knitting community which has since grown to be a popular presence in contemporary knitting culture, reaching more than a million readers each year. As a marketing professional, Danielle advises and works with a motley squad of artists, yarn bombers, film makers, pattern designers, yarn companies and more. Learn more about her latest book, Knits & Pieces: A Knitting Miscellany.

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