On resisting gendered hierarchies of practice in the art world

Alana Tyson is a Welsh-Canadian artist. Born in Canada, she graduated from the Alberta College of Art And Design in 2006, with a BFA (Hons) degree in Painting. She moved to the UK in 2007 and currently lives in North Wales. Alana Tyson’s work attempts to make sense of the world she inhabits. As an immigrant to the UK and a natural observer, she feels highly responsive to the contradictions of everyday life. Her uncertain questioning of diverse thematic concepts is a tactic for working through the problems she encounters, incorporating performance, sculpture and installation utilising found, altered and constructed elements.

My grandmother taught me to crochet as a child during long hot summers on the Canadian prairies. Crochet is something I have always enjoyed doing but have kept separate from my art practice; it was a way of relaxing, making gifts for friends but definitely not “Art”.

Although some deny its continued existence, there remains a hierarchy in the art world; craft processes rank lower than disciplines such as video or sculpture. This extends even further; amongst crafts, textiles are one of the least well regarded. This highlights issues of gender and value. Textiles are “feminine”, often made by women, and part of the domestic sphere. There are many artists using craft materials and making art that is deserving of (and occasionally receiving) recognition, but this does not mean that this debate is no longer relevant. Prejudice against the “feminine” continues to be pervasive and used to dismiss these works of art. The debasement of craft is yet another method of the continued marginalisation of women in the art world.

In my practice, I deal with domestic materials. I transform inexpensive and accessible materials (often textiles) into performance, sculpture and installation. I show my artwork in both craft galleries and art galleries; I am called both an artist and a maker. However, assessing my practice a couple of years ago, I identified a frustration; a feeling that I needed to diminish my craft links in order to further access the art world. Obtusely, I decided to embrace a skill I had always hidden away – crochet.

Alter Ego I is a photograph of myself wearing a crocheted balaclava. Incorporating craft, textiles and a feminine perspective it epitomises my practice. It is also battle mask, to bolster my courage to stand up for these attributes in opposition to an invalid hierarchy.


Art vs Crafts
‘Alter Ego I’ by Alana Tyson.