The ultimate American super hero is the cowboy. Mark Newport, artist-in-residence and head of the fiber department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Michigan is exploring masculinity through the knitting of superhero costumes in acrylic yarn. Newport knits a variety of superheroes of his own creation. In a show with the name of “Sweatermen” the American cowboy is represented by several creations. One is called Sweaterman, another the Rawhide Kid, and one the Two-Gun Kid. During his show, Newport will wear some of his costumes.
Newport challenges traditional ideas of masculine and feminine stereotypes by combining superheroes and knitting, which is still considered a female hobby. Many men do knit as well as practice other activities traditionally considered only for women. However, they generally do not practice these hobbies in public. Newport knits while watching football.
The functionality of the superhero costume is basic to the image of the superhero. A knitted costume doesn’t have the MacGyver accessories or capes of the usual superhero costume, it uses bulky yarns and is baggier than the skin tight spandex costumes that are typical. Newport’s costumes include traditional sweater components such as cables.
Originally Newport recreated Batman, Spiderman and other superheroes. He then branched out into creating his own superheroes. He used similar color schemes to the traditional ones, but created a new visual pattern that reminds viewers of sweaters.
“Sweatermen” is being shown from June 3 to July 29, 2011 at the Art Association of Jackson Hole’s Main Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming.