Hildur Bjarnadóttir creates textiles that are beautifully handcrafted and visually appealing yet also intellectually driven, challenging the definitions and assumed hierarchies of art and craft. Of particular interest to her is the complicated role of fabric as a surface for painting on as well as a material used to cover tables, chairs and other domestic objects. Her work asks, Why is a painted canvas considered fine art while these other textile forms typically are not?
A native of Iceland, Bjarnadóttir learned knitting, crochet, tatting, and embroidery from her mother, an elementary school teacher who taught these traditional techniques to her students. During summers, Hildur and her sisters (she is a triplet) helped their mother develop school projects. Growing up within a matrilineal culture with a strong textile tradition, Hildur also learned from her grandmothers. These childhood experiences of making stayed with her as she received formal training from the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts (BFA, textiles, 1992) and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York (MFA, new forms, 1997).
The artist’s Project Ten Ten Ten commission, Urban Color Palette, Charlotte, offers a visual representation of the value of that which is usually overlooked and neglected. Bjarnadóttir visited Charlotte in March 2010 and gathered local plants from roadsides and vacant lots near the Urban Ministry, an interfaith organization in Uptown Charlotte that aims to end homelessness. Then, she boiled the plants to create dyes that she used to dye wool yarn from Icelandic sheep, using the lobby of the former location of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design as her studio, allowing visitors to ask her questions as she worked. Although usually considered weeds, the plants she gathered yielded a remarkable array of colors, such as off white, yellow, brown, and red, as seen in the squares and rectangles that she crocheted from the yarn in Iceland and ultimately installed at the Mint Museum Uptown. The plants included clover, dandelion flowers, and chickweed, among others.
Project Ten Ten Ten commission, Gift of Wesley Mancini, the International Textile Manufacturers Association, and Berhan Nebioglu and Michael Gallis & Associates. 2010.64A-KK. © Hildur Bjarnadóttir, 2010.