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Jennifer Cecere '69
December 10, 2021

Unexpected art

Abbot alumna gives new life to traditional women’s handiwork
by Nancy Hitchcock

Thousands of people hustle through the Little Italy-University Circle subway station in Cleveland every year. All pass under a suspended intricate sculpture that might remind some of the handmade white doilies adorning side tables at Nona’s house.

It’s no coincidence.

Growing up in Richmond, Indiana, with Italian-American parents (her grandparents on both sides emigrated from Southern Italy), artist Jennifer Cecere ’69 was immersed in cherished family traditions, like needlework and lacemaking—and the stories they carried.

“The goal for the piece is to champion the handiwork of unsung women. I love the idea of taking activities like knitting and crochet, often considered safe outlets for women done alone in private, into the public realm,” explains Cecere, who won a national competition to create the permanent public artwork in Cleveland. “The view is a little bit unexpected. You're in a public space being confronted with materials and processes that you don't expect to see. It’s meant to challenge our notions of public art.”

A New Perspective

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Cecere studied art with Ginny Carter and photography with Wendy Snyder MacNeil at Abbot and received a BFA at Cornell University. Throwing herself into the artist-led American art movement Pattern and Decoration, which began in the mid-1970s, Cecere helped change perspectives via a medium that was often dismissed as non-art and elevated it to galleries, public spaces, and museums around the world.

For more than 40 years, Cecere has created large public sculptures, such as Double Doily—a white bench featuring a lace pattern made of aluminum—and other pieces made of plastic, vinyl, and fabric. Her work has been exhibited in Central Park, Newport Beach Sculpture Park, The Guggenheim Museum, MoMA/PS1, Smithsonian Museum, and the Addison Gallery of American Art.

"As a young girl, Grandma always gave me something she crocheted to bring home with me," Cecere recalls. "My public art aims to integrate the flavor of domestic handiwork into the built environment. It's a little reminder of home."

Categories: Alumni, Magazine, Magazine Online

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