Where Fine Art Meets Craft: The Accessible Works of Joyce KozloffAugust 28, 2013
If you have ever traveled through Reagan National Airport, the Los Angeles metro, the Wilmington Train Station in Delaware, or the San Francisco airport, chances are you have seen her work. Joyce Kozloff is a renowned artist known for her decorative art, public installations, and cartographic works. She is also an AAUW alumna. Kozloff was awarded our Selected Professions Fellowship in 1975 for painting and went on to become an undeniable influence in the forefront of the 1970s feminist art movement. We spent some time catching up with her to learn more about her incredible success as an artist and to talk a little bit about her current work.
During the 1960s women’s movement, concerned women (then deemed “radical”) formed consciousness-raising groups in an effort to raise awareness about personal and collective grievances. During this time, Kozloff discovered her role in the feminist art movement:
For us, there weren’t women in the galleries and museums, so we formed our own galleries, we curated our own exhibitions, we formed our own publications, we mentored one another, we even formed schools for feminist art. We examined the content of the history of art, and we began to make different kinds of art forms based on our experiences as women. So it was both social and something even beyond; in our case, it came back into our own studios.
For her part, Kozloff joined the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists, where she participated in actions for more female inclusion at museums that were underrepresenting women artists in their collections.
Kozloff’s focus began in the decorative arts, which provided a source of seemingly infinite material and inspiration that still influence her work today. She later widened her scope from painting to explore ceramics and textiles in an effort to break down some of the hierarchies between the decorative and fine arts, exposing the overlaps between art and craft. Incorporating new mediums into her work was perhaps as much an explorative concept as an innovative one: In the past 20 years, she has completed 16 public art projects installed throughout the United States and other countries.
The concept behind public art in many ways is about accessibility. It is about opening up the scope of the art, making it more viewable and approachable to wider ranges of people. Kozloff first became involved in creating public art in 1979 after sending in slides for a public art project for Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her proposal was chosen and the exquisite geometric mural still outfits the subway station today. “There’s great satisfaction for me in making work that is accessible to broad audiences — not just to the art audience, but I also have wanted to have a dialogue with other artists and other people in the art community,” Kozloff says. Her influence reaches all over the world, be it Turkey, Japan, Pasadena, or New York City.
For the past two decades, Kozloff’s work has been largely driven by cartographic influences, weaving together elements of structure and decoration. “I like to incorporate layers of content and motifs and images from different cultures, and the mapping has been a wonderful device for doing that,” she says. “There’s a certain amount of decoration that always enters my work because that’s become a part of my sensibility and a part of my vocabulary, my visual vocabulary, so it’s just always there, even if it’s not the driving force behind the work.” Her 1997 marble mosaic in the Reagan National Airport displays four cartographic representations based on ancient charts of the Chesapeake Bay area throughout four separate centuries. Her 2002 work Dark and Light Continents is a photographic representation of the earth’s surface at night, depicting energy consumption through the bright glow of development, and metaphorically represents the Enlightenment.
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Currently, Kozloff is enveloped in her new work. Already its rapid development and expansion has taken her by surprise; it is something she is excited to run with. She also says her latest creation will come full circle with her early work: “I think most artists feel most connected with the present rather than the past. We have to sort of keep moving on and pushing ourselves.” Her new work will be a return to her decorative roots in some ways, while pressing toward new creative expression.
Musing on the way in which her path unfolded, and what helped her along the way, Kozloff mentions four artists who served as mentors to her growth and success: Nancy Spero, Miriam Schapiro, May Stevens, and Ida Applebroog. Of the funding she received from AAUW she says, “It was great to get that affirmation at an early point in my life, especially from a national women’s organization.”
Kozloff advises readers to collaborate with those around us and value both the networks we lean on and the ones we contribute to. “Having a support system is so important; having a network, having a dialogue with your peers … Art is a social activity, and the dialogue about ideas is absolutely central.” We look forward to contributing to that dialogue and continuing to be captivated by Kozloff’s art.
Selected Works by Joyce Kozloff
Joyce Kozloff’s 1975 Selected Professions Fellowship was sponsored by the Anne Pannell Taylor American Fellowship created by AAUW of Alabama in honor of the former president of AAUW and the AAUW Educational Foundation.
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily Carroll.
I was thrilled to take my 12-year-old to see the exhibition of Ringgold’s work and take an opportunity to sneak in teachable moments about race and civil rights.
Selected Professions Fellowships are awarded to women who intend to pursue a degree where women’s participation traditionally has been low.
Since 1888, AAUW has awarded nearly $100 million in fellowships, grants and awards to more than 12,000 women from over 130 countries.