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?