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Did a Philly street artist just create the best new symbol for female empowerment in the Trump era?

June 9, 2017

Pussy breaths fire back?

Just spotted this nearly waist-high creature yarnbombed on a fence along 6th street between South and Lombard streets at the boarder of the Bella Vista and Washington Square West neighborhoods. The creature was created and installed by Philly-based crochet artist J. Curtaz (aka Binding Things.) And after looking into what exactly this creature was (I originally thought it was an armadillo because I grew up in Fishtown and how the heck am I supposed to know what an armadillo looks like?), it’s come to my attention that this piece could easily be the best new symbol for female empowerment in the Trump era.

I first noticed J. Curtaz’s work last summer in Fishtown, and I’ve been a fan ever since. And even though I rarely run into their crocheted street art installations around town myself (these pieces often tend to get removed pretty quickly,) I have been following along on their Instagram where the artist documents the many installations they’ve created over the last year around Philly.

The bulk of J. Curtaz’s crocheted street art/yarnbombs take the form of animals (both real and imaginary), plants, and flowers. Things, I suppose, you might find in nature (real or imagined nature, that is.) Discovering these “natural” forms on the streets of a city make them stand out. For me, it’s a little escapism, and I love it.

This, J. Curtaz’s latest crocheted piece, is perhaps my favorite of their work so far, and that’s because of its possible political symbolism. The animal depicted by the the piece is described by the artist as a “Ghost Chimera.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a Chimera as: “A fire-breathing female monster in Greek mythology having a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.” How badass!

I’m saying possible political symbolism, because it’s not clear to me (from either of the two artist’s Instagram posts about this piece thus far) that it was intended to represent anything other than the mythical creature it depicts. Nevertheless, with the historic Woman’s March still fresh in our collective memories and the overwhelming (at least in all my social media feeds) fanfare and excitement for the release of Wonder Women this past weekend and the heroic feminism it represented to many, it’s hard for me not to see this piece as living in that world (our world.) Not to ignore, of course, the Chimera (if you will) in the room; and that’s that one of the most prominent symbols of empowered feminism right now are those crocheted pussyhats. A coincidence that this piece not only depicts a fearless, fire-breathing female monster, but that it was also created using the same medium as those ubiquitous pink pussyhats? Have I slide too far down the rabbit hole?

No matter the artist’s intent, art by its nature is subjective and implores its viewer to explore their own interpretations, especially art that’s in the public space. And that’s just what I’ve done with this post. Please feel free to comment your thoughts – I’d love to hear!

Last note: For anyone who may want to pick apart the title of this post and remind us all that this artist didn’t “create” the Chimera, you’re correct! What this artist did do, though, is create the symbol of a crochet Chimera (an important distinction for reasons I discuss above,) which as far as I can tell no one’s done before.

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