The prolific body of work by Lewis Knauss (b. 1947-Macungie, PA) in the field of textiles has always been influenced by his natural surroundings. Whether it was the fields in rural Pennsylvania where he grew up, or the mountains of Colorado, which he visited later in his career, or his travels to Egypt and Israel, his connections to place at a particular point in time has heavily influenced both his choice of materials and his technique.
As an education major at Kutztown University, Knauss was first exposed to textiles when fulfilling a general requirement for graduation. Attracted to the material properties of yarn, Knauss decided to take a weaving class, which forever changed his career path. In the late 1960s, many artists were exploring the tensions within the field of craft, often questioning the need for crafts to be defined by functionality and opting to focus on process and materiality for its own sake. His exposure to contemporary weaving and textiles was reinforced through his study at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and subsequently at Tyler School of Art, Temple University where he received his Master’s degree.
It was when Knauss moved to Ohio to teach at Kent State University that he developed a keen interest in the natural landscape, which resulted in a life-long exploration of technique and the incorporation of new materials to “capture” his memory of a particular time and place. For example, his earliest works — inspired by landscapes in Pennsylvania — are made of raffia based on his recollection of the fields of bleached grass in the midst of winter. As he studied and traveled, he continued to explore other materials to discover their potential to be woven and built into the surface of his work. Twine, hay, feathers, leaves and even paper have been source materials for his work. It is the layering through the process of knotting line by line coupled with his commitment to fine craftsmanship and attention to detail that drives his work. As Knauss observes “The act of making has always been very important. Sitting quietly, working, tying knots endlessly, working on objects on my own. I feel those objects really record every minute of my life. From the very first moment I picked up a yarn, I just loved the feel of that in my hands. I love the dialogue. Every material in textiles has a different response to a structure, a different response to me as a maker.”1
For 28 years, Knauss was professor of textiles at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia and he retired from teaching as Professor Emeritus in 2010. He has received numerous fellowships from both the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts and was recognized with the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award in 2007. Knauss’ work can be found in several private and museum collections, including those of Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum.
Knauss has had numerous solo exhibitions, including: Fields and Forests, Hadler/Rodriquez Gallery, New York, NY (1975); Macungie Notes, Hadler/Rodriguez Gallery, New York, NY and Houston, TX (1978); Objects Gallery, San Antonio, TX. Craft Alliance, St. Louis, MO (1981); Helen Drutt Gallery, Philadelphia, PA (1982); Miller/Brown Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Elements Gallery, New York, NY (1984); Contemporary Crafts, Portland, OR (1986); The Woven Landscape, Patrick King Contemporary Art, Indianapolis, IN (1988); The Windows at Tiffany & Co., Washington, DC (1991); Meditation on the Landscape, Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA (1998); Lewis Knauss, Jane Sauer Gallery; Santa Fe, NM (2004); Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia, PA (2004); and Lewis Knauss: Ledgers, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE (2005).
His work has also been included in several important group exhibitions, such as: Fiberworks, Cleveland Art Museum, Cleveland, OH (1977); Diverse Directions: The Fiber Arts, Washington State University, Pullman, University of Washington, Seattle, WA (1978); Miniature Fiber Arts, The Textile Workshop traveling National Exhibition (1979); Old Traditions/New Directions, Textile Museum, Washington, DC (1981); Crafts of the Eighties, Newark Museum, Newark, NJ (1982); Contemporary Arts: An Expanded View, a traveling exhibition organized by Monmouth Museum, Lincroft, NJ (1986); Contemporary Textile Art: A National Survey, Sierra Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV (1987); Textiles in Philadelphia, Helen Drutt Gallery, Philadelphia, PA (1994); Bridging Worlds: An Exhibition of the Visiting Artists Jacquard Project, a traveling exhibition organized by Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, PA (1996); Opening Doors: Selections from the Design Resource Center, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, NY (1998); Miniature 2000, Helen Drutt Gallery, Philadelphia, PA and Museum of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland (2000); Wood of the World, Finnish Museum of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland (2000); Ever Changing Landscape, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, KY (2005); Fibre: A New World View, National Gallery of the Irish Craft Council, Kilkenny, Ireland (2005); A Memory of Place: Work by Beth Barron & Lewis Knauss, Society of Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, PA (2006); Pulp Fiction, a traveling show organized by Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA (2006); Precious Possessions: The American Craft Collection / Fiber Art from the Museum Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia PA (2008); Paper Works, Flinn Gallery, Greenwich Library, Greenwich, CT (2012); Innovators and Legends: Generations in Textile and Fiber, a traveling exhibition organized by Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI (2012); Contemporary Work in Fiber, University of Mary Washington Galleries, VA (2012); Making Design, Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Collection, New York, NY (2012); Gifts from America 1948–2013, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia (2014); A Broader Interpretation of Southwest Landscapes, and Biodiversity, Tansey Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM (2014); and The LA Art Show, Tansey Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM (2015).
Knauss has also shown at Art Palm Beach, SOFA/Chicago, SOFA/NYC, SOFA/West, as well as theInternational Fiber Biennials, Snyderman-Works Gallery, Philadelphia, PA (2008–2014).
1 “Masters: Lewis Knauss” American Craft Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2012 www.craftcouncil.org/magazine/article/masters-lewis-knauss