When you hear the word “crochet,” what comes to mind? Perhaps the thought of your grandmother or aunt knitting together a winter sweater that is forever doomed to live in the abyss of your closet, never to see the light of day, right? I’ll assume everyone is in agreement on that one. Walking the city streets of Miami during Art Basel 2010, a few friends and I stumbled upon a bicycle and what appeared to be a small carriage completely crocheted in neon pink and purple thread. Intrigued by any and everything odd, the curiosity inside me gradually bubbled like hot grits in a Southern kitchen. Agata Oleksiak, professionally known as Crocheted Olek is a Polish-born artist currently residing in the U.S.
Olek’s array of work consist of sculptures, bikes, installations, and fiber art which have been featured in galleries from Brooklyn to Harlem, Instanbul to Venice, and Poland to Brazil. The crazed crotcheter has covered people and various objects with crotchet–from bicycles and cars to Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull sculpture. Although she identifies herself as a street artist, many have deemed the yarn queen as a yarn bomber due to a street art guerilla craze that was gaining the authorities attention–but Olek disagrees and actually isn’t fond of the craze. “I think crochet, the way I create it, is a metaphor for the complexity and interconnectedness of our body and its systems and psychology. The connections are stronger as one fabric as opposed to seperate strands, but, if you cut one, the whole thing will fall apart. Relationships are complex and greatly vary situation to situation. They are developmental journeys of growth and transformation. Time passed, great distances are surpassed, and the fabric which individuals are composed of compiles and unravels simultaneously.”
Another iconic New York city sculptor wrapped in Olek’s trademarked pink and purple camouflage yarn was Tony Rosenthal’s Astor Place Cube. Her best known piece is a Keith Harring inspired portrait–in which the artist’s body and entire room surrounding him was painted with black line work–is re-created in a three dimensional installation. By covering things with yarn, Olek changes our interactions with everyday objects, whether its a shopping cart or a person. The surprise of the spectacle is what makes the work engaging.