Fiber Artist Wins Genius Grant

My friend (and sister art quilter) Martha Grant sent me this notice last week and I finally had a few minutes to look into the story:

from the CBS News website: Mary Jackson is an African American basketmaker whose work exemplifies the way that fine craft can preserve and extend our personal and family stories and our world views. “This woman was awarded one of the 25 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grants worth $500,000. Yaaay for fiber artists everywhere!

"Mary Jackson, 63, fiber artist, Charleston, S.C. Jackson has preserved the craft of sweetgrass basketry.--"

There is also a video about Jackson's work on the Craft in America website. Here's more of what that source has to say about her:

Mary Jackson (b. 1945) is a basket maker who lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, Stoney. She makes sweetgrass baskets that come out of a tradition that has been passed down to her from her ancestors. It originated in West Africa, and then was brought to America by slaves.

This kind of basket making is an identifying cultural practice for people who were cut off from their own history, and has been a part of Charleston and Mt. Pleasant communities for more than 300 years. Jackson uses sweetgrass, palmetto, pine needles, and bulrush in her work, which is innovative, but always mindful of its past. Her baskets are represented in many collections including the American Craft Museum, White House Collection of Arts and Crafts, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and Museum of African American History, Detroit.

According to the CBS website, other visual artists who won this prestigious grant this year are:

Tara Donovan, 38, sculptor, Brooklyn, N.Y. As an artist, Donovan transforms ordinary materials into sculptures that mirror geological and biological forms.

Jennifer Tipton, 71, stage lighting designer, New York, N.Y. Tipton uses lighting to evoke mood and accompany dance, drama and opera.

It's heartening to see the range of ages represented and, simply by the fact that two of these visual artists, and 7 of the 25, are over the age of 55. This age-span tells me that Malcomb Gladwell is onto something in his New Yorker magazine article, one that has deservedly been making the rounds on the fiber art lists. Read more here: "Late Bloomers - Why do we equate genius with precocity"