“Crossover” is a word used to describe artists venturing into a new discipline. It’s not always a complimentary epithet, considering that
- What some will celebrate as a new arrival others may perceive as an invasion
- Expectations aren’t necessarily very high, given that the artist’s expertise is understood to lie in the area they have deserted rather than the one to which they’ve migrated
- They may have some of the qualities of an exile, looking back from their new location to their former home
I’ve been looking at Kaffe Fassett’s new autobiography Dreaming in Color, and that’s what provoked me to contemplate the subject of crossover.
In Fassett’s case there are a number of ways in which the epithet might apply. Fassett is a visual artist who found himself in his ventures into such diverse media as the design of yarn & fabric, patchwork quilting and needle-point, making an impact far greater than anything he achieved painting. His disciplinary moves parallel his physical displacement from his roots in America to a new home in England (since the 1960s).
I found myself thinking about crossover looking at the images in Deaming in Color, a book unlike any autobiography I’ve ever seen. For one thing, it’s a picture book, which would only seem like an odd way to write an autobiography to a biographer. In effect the book flouts the usual procedures understood for such an undertaking. A picture book to tell a life story? That’s odd only to someone whose discipline is words, whereas a visual artist would think it odd to work any other way.
The book is a perfect example of crossover. Only the most consevative critic could find it deficient (for having departed from usual procedures) but its breakthrough is precisely in disregarding procedure, while instead allowing the new disciplinary influence to illuminate and inspire. Who cares if it’s an uncommon approach to biography, if good visual art & design practices inform the book? I had a hard time putting it down.
Of course Fassett is now a mature artist looking back on decades of creativity. Dreaming in Color is a comprehensive survey of his development, now available. The title is perfect considering this man’s obsessive love of color.