Artist Highlights: Ben Cuevas
The past few weeks have been so hot that knitting is probably the last thing on your mind. For me, knitting is a year-round process, not for garment construction, but for the creation of toys and stuffed animal amigurumi projects. Being immersed in the fiber art heaven that is the Textile Arts Center, I have begun to explore beyond the hobby and craft books and into the fine art side of textiles.
As a once pre-med student fascinated by the brain and anatomy turned fiber arts enthusiast, my head nearly exploded to see these disparate topics collide when I stumbled upon the knitted skeleton created by Ben Cuevas.
Ben Cuevas, a recent graduate from Hampshire College, is an installation artist from Los Angeles who incorporates fiber as a central feature of his work. He says, “I enjoy the rich cultural and social history that surrounds fiber arts, as well as blending the distinctions between art and craft. The time intensive and repetitive nature of knitting allows me to meditate on a piece as it comes into being, further revealing the nature of the work as part of the process.” I could not agree more to this statement.
His installation at the Wassaic Project entitled “Transcending the Material” includes the human skeleton sitting in the lotus position upon a pyramid of Borden’s condensed milk cans.
In my junior year of college, I took a Forensic Anthropology course in which I was required to learn all 206 bones of the human skeletal system. I haven’t counted here, but trust me guys, it’s all there. I also had to learn all the landmark on the bones- every foramen (holes for muscles and nerves to pass through), process (sharp projection), crest (a conspicuous ridge), tuberosity (bump for attachment to a muscle), etc. and identify them from bone fragments (not a fun time). But Cuevas took on the undue torture of creating an anatomically precise piece right down to the suture lines on the skull. The results from this labor are astounding and most certainly appreciated!
The heart from “The Waiting Room”
On his website, http://bencuevas.wordpress.com/, he states his motivation behind his work:
“While I explore a wide range of subject matter (such as gender and sexual identity, human rights, and ecological impact), my work is rooted by my desire to explore the condition of embodiment through comparative philosophical perspectives, reflecting on what it means to have a body, to inhabit a body, to be a body incarnated in, and interacting with, this world.”
He further explores this theme of the relationship between the metaphysical in his series of installations entitled “Healing Disparities: The Condition of Embodiment.” Here he creates knitted body parts that correspond to the 7 chakras.
The intestines (solar plexus) correspond to the 3rd chakra Manipura.
The heart corresponds to the 4th chakra Anahata.
The throat with the thyroid gland in pink which corresponds to the 5th chakra Vishuddha.
These are a few of my favorite ones. Thankfully, my anatomy and physiology course focused more on function and processes within the body instead of rote memorization of every vessel and nerve. So, I’ll just take his word for it on this one that it’s all there.
Ben Cuevas’ work is just amazing and truly inspiring! On his website, he explains his fascination with fibers and knitting, ”yarn is one of my current obsessions. It’s such a tactile medium and I’m really drawn to that quality of the material. The way it feels in your hands, the way it helps you mark the passing of time…all of these qualities seem very meditative to me.”
Ben Cuevas’ philosophy on knitting is spot on with my own. To me, knitting is inherently meditative and can bring you into a trance and I definitely lose track of time. Creating a sculptural piece allows me to use knitting as a form of expression that has more meaning to me than creating a hat or scarf. Plus, I am terrible at gauge!