A Stitch in Time:
The World Woven by Jonathan Rockford
By Rachel Galvin
A master of illusion, Jonathan Rockford plays with light and shape when molding his universe, a mix of tradition and modernity. Melding crocheted creations with motion pictures, he intersperses the fine art of craft-making with the newer medium of filmmaking, creating a three-dimensional experience that has a tendency to trick the eye of the viewer with its textures.
For him, crochet is about tension … and time. A single stitch is like a pixel in an image; together, they create a bigger picture and, thus, he creates a new artistic universe.
“Each stitch represents a moment in time and the relationship between one stitch and the next really determines the structural qualities of the entire piece. I feel that these elements inform the works that I have made, as well as bridge the gap between the other processes I explore (i.e. video art and working with found objects),” said Rockford.
His unique blend came from some of his early experiences.
“In high school, I filmed the football games for the team and, in exchange, I got access to their video equipment. I spent a lot of time playing with this on the side. Nothing I made at that time could really be considered art, but that's about the time I realized how much I enjoyed experimenting and making things and the expressive potential of various technologies and processes,” he said.
It wasn't until he went on to higher education at both a technical school and a community college that he was introduced to the art world and art-making process.
Crochet came a few years later when he worked on his Bachelor of Fine Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and spent a lot of time commuting on public transit. He also received a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree from the University of Miami.
“During a fibers course at school, I realized that crochet could be sculptural, plus it is lightweight and flexible. This made it easy to transport, and I could also work on projects en route. The same circumstances also prompted the development of my video work and, at times, the two processes have merged in various ways,” he said.
In his piece Kickflip to the Darkside, a brightly colored skateboard lying askew is actually crocheted while on the wall behind it is a projection of a silhouette painting on acetate. In another piece, entitled Rise and Fall, it is a unicycle that has been discarded on the ground that is crocheted. It features a projection of a rider who seems to have fallen off its perch.
In the piece Dark Cloud of My Own Design, a piece of paper and a pencil look commonplace, but from the pencil's tip, VHS tape curls its way up to the wall where it is crocheted into a little bundle stuck there, as if the lead from the pencil has taken on a life of its own and broken free into its own form of creation. Moving the eye from the bundle back down to the pencil, it almost appears to be a cloud raining its inspiration down onto the paper.
Rockford said, “The cloud is actually crocheted from that line of VHS tape and was done with an aluminum crochet hook. When VHS tape is tightly crocheted, it ravels and bunches up and reflects light differently − looking like an entirely different material. I thought this aspect correlates well with the differences we perceive between actual clouds and rain drops.”
Sometimes, his pieces are not woven together with yarn at all, but use the video element, although in a different way. One example is entitled Signal, a piece that was seen as part of the “Self-lit” show at 18 Rabbit Gallery in Fort Lauderdale eaerlier this year. What appears to be a metal basin of water is contrasted by a center-set scuba mask with a video projection coming through its transparency of a mouth speaking with a flash of light, instead of words. The image is eerie; its buoyancy makes it come alive, as if it is calling to the passersby, drawing them in like moths to a flame.
Rockford said, “For me, this piece speaks as a type of warning, but also a type of siren song. Flashing lights often signify danger, but are also quite alluring, especially when I think of the flickering glow of television sets or firelight.”
This 2010 South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual and Media Artists Fellowship recipient has lived all over the United States, including Minnesota, California, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and now Florida. His transient existence has molded the man he has become.
“Moving around has had a huge impact on me as a person,” Rockford said. “Living in different landscapes and amidst varying regional values and interests probably kept me from cementing into a particular mindset, or at least it has kept me curious about what else is out there. I'm definitely inspired by the weather and environment here in South Florida. The colors, the sky, the vastness of the ocean are all enchanting.”
The South Florida skies aren't his only inspiration.
“I also spend a good amount of time reading about recent advances in science and technology and watching lectures by pioneering thinkers online. That really inspires me,” he said.
He weaves together his pieces every day for four to eight hours, working out of his live/work space in Sailboat Bend Artists’ Lofts in Fort Lauderdale with his wife, Lisa, who is also a popular local artist.
He hopes that people come away from his artwork with “a renewed sense of wonder or, at best, a re-examination of their presuppositions or new insights and connections.”
His works have been seen at the Bakehouse Art Complex, 18 Rabbit Gallery, Frost Art Museum, Hardcore Art Contemporary Space and elsewhere. They can also be viewed through his website at