The Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland has a wonderful exhibit on right now entitled “Manuf®actured: The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects” featuring the work some very thought-provoking designers. I can’t get to Portland right now, but it’s ok because the exhibition website is such an excellent example of an online catalog that I almost feel like I’ve been there.
One designer-artist previously unknown to me whose work I’m really resonating to right now is Laura Splan, a Brooklyn-based designer who weaves traditional crafts with disturbing biomedical themes. The doilies pictured above, for example, are machine-embroidered in patterns inspired by some of the most deadly viruses known. Other pieces in the show include wallpaper patterns created with Splan’s own blood, and a piece of lingerie sewn from pieces of a facial peel-off mask, conflating beauty and revulsion into one moment of reaction.
I’m interested in this dark aesthetic – the idea that beauty can coexist with fear and disgust. That beauty is what draws us in, only to be repelled by what discover, is a powerful idea for the design world. This is deceptive design, but in another way it is actually quite direct. Nothing is what it seems, and to call attention to this fact is perhaps the most honest statement a designer can make.