“Crafter” of the Week: Nava Lubelski

Nava Lubelski - Yellow Cloth

Yellow Cloth, 2009, thread on stained tablecloth, 60″ x 50″

With this blog and with my work in general, I’ve continuously tried to show the connection between hand-craft and art. While the impetus and the ultimate goal of the creator can be different, the individual sense of expression and translation of emotion remains the same between the two disciplines. Ultimately it is this quality – the reflection of life’s circumstances into physical works – that leads to things I find appealing and filled with substance. As a result of this, when I find an artist who not only uses traditional craft methods in their work, but also uses their creations as a jumping board for individual exploration, I instantly fall in love with their work. Nava Lubelski is one such artist who has received an impressive amount of recognition, proving that I’m not the only one who values these qualities.

Nava Lubelski - First Cavalry

Installation View: First Cavalry, 108″ x 95″, Machine embroidered fabric and hand stitching, 2011

Lubelski grew up in the SoHo area of New York City before graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in Russian Literature and History, an unusual background for her current career. Lubelski began a career as an illustrator and writer, publishing a book in 2004 (more on this later). By 2014, Lubelski has shown at McKenzie Fine Art, the Queens Museum of Art, the Museum of Arts & Design, the San Diego Museum of Art, and countless smaller museums and galleries both in America and abroad. This incredible pedigree is furthered by numerous mentions in prominent journals and loads of grants, as listed on her website. 

Nava Lubelski - Rejection Letters

Rejection Letters , 1″ x 20″ x 20″, cut and shredded rejection letters, glue, 2008

Lubelski’s work falls into two categories of creation I continue to come back to in these posts – paper and fiber. Her statement discusses the personal importance of these works, describing the concepts of destruction and creation as integral to her process:

“My work explores the contradictions between the impulse to destroy and the compulsion to mend. I juxtapose rapid acts of destruction, such as spilling and cutting, with painstaking, restorative labor.”

These acts of aggressive destruction, when paired with the meticulous acts of stitching and coiling, play with issues of masculine and feminine as core designators of creation. The masculine impulse is obvious, and the use of stitching and soft forms seems to easily imply the feminine, but Lubelski’s work pushes these concepts even further:

“The work scrambles expressions of aggression with masochistic patience and sublimation and plays with the feminine through the graphic form of the “stain” and the adding of peek-a-boo, lace inlays to repair cut holes that expose the hidden space behind the canvas.”

The feminine is thus portrayed through more than just the sum of a traditional craft, but also through the hidden or taboo associations of menstruation and modesty so familiar to a female creator.

Nava Lubelski - Portfolio

Portfolio, 5″ x 25″ x 16″, cut and shredded portfolio of drawings, glue, 2011

Lubelski’s paper works delve into these concepts of self even further, literally using the documents that represent us in society – letters, bills, papers, drawings – to create a new document or cross-section of one’s life. Lubelski describes these works as more than just a manner of dealing with one’s imprint emotionally, but also physically:

“The re-use of paper, as well as the attempted “repair” of the long-lost original tree, is an examination of feelings of despair about waste and unsustainability while simultaneously responding to the shadow impulse to hoard and keep what is no longer needed.”

In essence, the works are creating something beautiful out of what would generally be considered waste, a dramatic metaphor when remembering that the documents used are markers of self.

Nava Lubelski

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Lubelski’s career for the purposes of this blog is her book “The Starving Artist’s Way.” Published in 2004 well before Pinterest and the DIY boom (though it pulls upon lots of super-popular DIY’s seen today, like pipe furniture!), this work serves to show how to eat, create, and live on a budget for someone who truly needs to DIY for survival. Several fantastic samples are available on the book’s website, though it’s an incredible bang for your buck on Amazon and worth a pick up. While genuinely helpful, the work is also a tongue in cheek appraisal of the artist’s lifestyle, with each project connecting in some way to a major exhibition or artist – almost all male. In many ways the work is itself a piece of art rather than a practical manual, an attempt to make sense of one’s feminine impulse to nest while maintaining status in a heavily male-centric art world. Its approach to art history and DIY is also incredibly funny, if you are an art history buff or no. Seriously buy this, especially if you like my writing style and type of DIY, as hers are very similar. I love it. I love her.

If you’re as awe-struck by Lubelski’s work and career as I am, her website lists upcoming and current exhibitions worldwide. Unfortunately she seems to based outside of the US for the next year or so, but I will be checking regularly for her return to the big apple!

It’s been awhile since I made one of these posts, but they always inspire me to look at more art and make more art. I hope you feel the same. So check out a local art gallery or museum today, or read through the rest of my “Crafter” of the Week posts for more inspiration. And remember to always:


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: All image copyrights belong to Nava Lubelski and are used for promotion and commentary. Please credit Lubelski when sharing any imagery or quotes here-in.

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