Open daily 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Sign up for news & updates.
Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW, Washington, DC

Connections Online Gallery

You are here

Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery presents more than 80 objects from the permanent collection in a new light, inspired by the way we navigate today’s “hyperlinked” world. Below is a selection of objects from the installation, including iconic favorites and new acquisitions. Read more about Connections

McDonald’s Neverland paper bag and colored pencil

Yuken Teruya, Notice—Forest (Autumn), 2002

Teruya transforms paper bags into magical tableaus. He cuts the silhouette of a tree into one side, then bends the paper inward to seemingly take root, leaving the lacy holes above to evoke mottled sunlight. Teruya’s reuse of these discarded materials memorializes the trees in ingenious floating worlds and suggests a cycle of renewal.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Driek and Michael Zirinsky

linen, cotton, and recycled thread

Kathryn Clark, Washington, DC, Foreclosure Quilt, 2015

Clark began to make her Foreclosure Quilts in 2007 to document the effects of the economic recession on the American landscape. The housing crisis was fading from the news despite the ongoing distress of those it affected, and Clark sought to keep the tragedy in the public eye. She chose quilting for its humble, utilitarian value and domestic associations. Her quilts document actual foreclosures from neighborhoods across the country.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Stephen D. Thurston Memorial Fund

black ash and white oak

John E. McGuire, Quatrefoil Lidded Shaker Cat Head Basket with Handle, 1992

The utilitarian crafts of the Shakers have inspired many modern and contemporary designers. Viewing decoration as a form of hubris, the Shakers put their “hands to work, hearts to God,” approaching craftsmanship as a form of worship. This Shaker-style basket by John McGuire is a perfect example of beauty derived from unadorned functional form.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Martha G. Ware and Steven R. Cole

plywood

Charles Eames and Ray Eames, Leg Splint, 1942

Charles and Ray Eames joined the war effort during World War II by entering into a contract with the U.S. Navy to develop a lightweight molded plywood leg splint. The object they designed, celebrated as much for its elegant biomorphic form as its utility, was true to their design philosophy of “making the best for the most for the least.” Through their Navy contract, these designers had valuable access to military technology and manufacturing processes and gained insights that would later serve as the basis of many of their later designs, especially their trademark chairs.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Harish K. Patel in memory of his father Khodabhai C. Patel.

cotton and rayon

Anni Albers, Ancient Writing, 1936

Anni Albers immigrated to the U.S. to teach at the experimental Black Mountain College in 1933. She took a holistic approach to teaching, encouraging her students to consider weaving from first principles. She asked them to imagine finding themselves alone in nature, with nothing but the materials at hand to keep warm, build shelter, and collect food. Their first crude attempts to create blankets and basketry led to a deeper appreciation of the refined systems of modern weaving.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Young

sweetgrass, bulrush, pine needles, and palmetto fronds

Lynette Youson, Gullah Fanner Basket, 2002

Much of the elegance of this basket is derived from its utilitarian form. The fanner basket is among the most traditional and earliest coiled baskets made by African Americans and was used to separate rice grains from husks. Lynette Youson began to sew scraps of grass at her great-grandmother’s side when she was only five, and continues this family tradition today.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Martha G. Ware and Steven R. Cole

bleached maple, paint, dye, stain, and resin

Ron Layport, The Running, 2008

Layport worked in advertising for forty years before pursuing woodworking in earnest. He is known for his intricate turned forms that “address the connection of humankind to Earth, and to the creatures with whom we share this planet.” Carved from a single piece of maple, The Running draws on his skill as an illustrator as well as a craftsman. Though comprised of only five deer, the circular motif suggests an infinitely moving, massive herd.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the Windgate Charitable Foundation

ebonized redwood burl and ebony

Robyn Horn, Slashed Millstone, 1996

Millstones remain a distinctive sign of early civilization, though they have all but disappeared from the modern world. Here Horn skillfully transforms redwood burl to “stone” to produce a timeless form, primitive yet unmistakably man-made, which seemingly reflects the unconscious effects of use and time.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Margot R. Heckman

glass with steel stand

William Morris, Raft, 1997

Although my work is shaped by the influences of contemporary life and technology, it contemplates fragments from the past; reinventing the narrative of the hunt, stories and rituals which continue to live on in the artifacts which remain. – William Morris

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Colleen and John Kotelly

reed splints

Billie Ruth Sudduth, Fibonacci 5, 1996

The ratios I use for my overs and unders . . . are the same ones found in the spacing of the spirals on seashells, pineapples, in the arrangements of a daisy or sunflower, even in the spirals that form the curve of an elephant's tusk. Best of all, Fibonacci goes to infinity, so I'm good for at least another century. – Billie Ruth Sudduth

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Kay Sekimachi and Bob Stocksdale and Susan Stewart

graphite, sterling silver, and stainless steel

Joan Parcher, Graphite Pendulum Pendant, 1994

Parcher’s neckpiece invites us to reconsider the relationship between jewelry and the body we often take for granted. The minimalist pendant features a single piece of lathe-turned graphite, rather than precious stones. Its understated elegance masks the artist’s subversive intent. When worn, the wearer’s movements cause the graphite to swing gently, leaving its mark.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Renwick Acquisitions Fund

glass

Lino Tagliapietra, Mandara, 2005

Lino Tagliapietra is revered as a master glass blower and for his contributions to the field through his teaching. Mandara is a seminal example of the innovative work he has created since breaking from the factory system in Murano, Italy, to become a studio artist. His use of the 500-year-old incalmo technique, in which glass bubbles are joined to create bands of color, is visible in the blue and yellow areas. He accompanies these designs with “coldworking,” cutting patterns into the glass after cooling. The maturity of form and skill of this work are uniquely attributable to Tagliapietra and reflect his more than sixty years of experience.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum.

Media: earthenware and glaze

Wayne Higby Temple's Gate Pass, 1988

Landscape imagery . . . provides a way to escape the bonds of reality . . . . I am able to stand on the mesa and experience myself as in a dream. – Wayne Higby

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of KPMG Peat Marwick

media: flash glass, vitreous paint, silver stain, and copper foil

Judith Schaechter, The Birth of Eve, 2013

Judith Schaechter discovered stained glass in the early 1980s and immediately recognized its potential to complement her graphic illustrations. Her works build a tension between disturbing, psychologically charged narratives and the visceral beauty and light of the medium. In The Birth of Eve, Schaechter’s technical virtuosity is on full display in a lush sea of flowers, constructed of up to five layers of cut, sandblasted, and enameled glass, stacked to produce variations of pattern and color gradation.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the James Renwick Alliance

media: earthenware and glaze

Jeffry Mitchell, Gold Pickle Jar, 2007

It’s hard to resist the disarming, childlike charm of Jeffry Mitchell’s pots. Disguised beneath the rich sheen of his lustre glaze are flowers, teddy bears, and Babar-like elephants---common themes that this artist uses to explore themes of love, sex, death, and spiritual redemption with an evident sincerity and lust for life.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Howard Kottler Endowment for Ceramic Art

media: maple wood

Dan Webb, Cut, Flamed, Spalted, 2013

Dan Webb consciously integrates medium and process into his emotional narrative. Refined and unfinished textures stress the maker’s hand. Spalting, a discoloration in the wood caused by fungus, can be seen in jagged lines across the bicep, while flaming, another grain distortion, shimmers like veins through the tender wrist. These conditions add depth and beauty to the piece, revealing the tree’s history while drawing a parallel to the scars of a life lived.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Decorative Arts and Crafts Endowment, the Richard T. Evans Fund, and the Renwick Acquisitions Fund

suit: cotton, silk, bamboo, wool, and acrylic blended yarn. Mannequin: basswood, acrylic paint, gouache, glass, pewter, and walnut

Laurel Roth Hope, Biodiversity Reclamation Suit: Carolina Parakeet, 2009

mannequin: basswood, acrylic paint, gouache, glass, pewter, and walnut Hope uses humor to address the serious subject of species extinction in her Biodiversity Reclamation Suits. These suits allow common rock pigeons to masquerade as extinct North American birds—if not actually to “reclaim” biodiversity, then at least to give the appearance of it. One can’t help but smile, imagining these birds clad in their bright, borrowed feathers roaming our city streets, even as we note that the damage we do to our environment cannot always be undone.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Joyce Schwartz in honor of Judith S. Weisman, museum purchase, and museum purchase from friends of the Renwick Gallery

Knit Batman Suit

Mark Newport, Batman 2, 2005

The sagging form of Mark Newport’s Batman 2 is a far cry from Hollywood’s contemporary depiction of the hero. Newport’s use of knitting, a technique traditionally associated with women’s work, is representative of a growing number of male artists challenging gender stereotypes through the fiber medium. The costume’s ridiculous proportions and limp posture undermine the character’s hyper-masculine associations and expose the insecurities these unrealistic ideals perpetuate, even as they suggest the possibility of a more vulnerable male role model.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Richard T. Evans Fund

Media: stoneware with glazes and decals

Ehren Tool, 204 of Thousands, 2014-15

Tool began making cups after serving in the Gulf War to communicate his experience. His personal project soon grew to encompass the struggles of other soldiers. The cups are not for sale---Tool gives them away to servicemen and their families and anyone who asks. Each is formed by hand and stamped with an endless vocabulary of war images and insignia, echoing his message: “Once a person has witnessed war, they are forever changed.”

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist in honor of the people who give the work meaning

ceramic scultpure

Peter Voulkos, Hole in One, 1978 

Voulkos drew inspiration from the abstract expressionist painters he met in the early 1950s, translating their energy and philosophy into his clay work and exploding conventional boundaries of art and craft. He is known for bravura demonstrations—as much performance as craft—in which he would attack massive quantities of clay, tearing and gouging at it before firing the resulting forms. Totemic “stacks” like Hole in One evince his raw masculine energy and his embrace of chance—two themes characteristic of his work.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Edith S. and Arthur J. Levin

media: glass

Dale Chihuly, Blanket Cylinder Series, 1984

Chihuly taught at the American Indian School in Santa Fe and was inspired by the graphic motifs he found on Indian trade blankets there. He and his team interpreted these patterns using glass threads, then picked them up with the molten gather of glass on his blowpipe. This series is primarily concerned with the suspension of patterns on the surface of the glass rather than with the vessel’s form.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Eleanor T. and Samuel J. Rosenfeld

cotton landscape of stars in Saigon, Vietnam on Lunar New Year, January 31, 1968

Anna Von Mertens, 2:45 am Until Sunrise on Tet, 2006

Von Mertens’s series As the Stars Go By depicts the position of the stars at specific violent moments in American history in which “what came before seems separate from what follows.” With the aid of a computer, she manipulates empirical data into subjective patterns, making these distant events personal. She then meticulously translates her compositions into fiber, bringing the image forth stitch by stitch on hand-dyed fabric over the course of several months.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Richard T. Evans Fund

McDonald’s Neverland paper bag and colored pencil
linen, cotton, and recycled thread
black ash and white oak
plywood
cotton and rayon
sweetgrass, bulrush, pine needles, and palmetto fronds
bleached maple, paint, dye, stain, and resin
ebonized redwood burl and ebony
glass with steel stand
reed splints
graphite, sterling silver, and stainless steel
glass
Media: earthenware and glaze
media: flash glass, vitreous paint, silver stain, and copper foil
media: earthenware and glaze
media: maple wood
suit: cotton, silk, bamboo, wool, and acrylic blended yarn. Mannequin: basswood, acrylic paint, gouache, glass, pewter, and walnut
Knit Batman Suit
Media: stoneware with glazes and decals
ceramic scultpure
media: glass
cotton landscape of stars in Saigon, Vietnam on Lunar New Year, January 31, 1968