Needlepoints of View by Ralph E. Wileman
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Needle Points of View by Ralph E. Wileman

About Needlepoint

Ralph Wileman Needlepoint

The earliest known piece of needlepoint -- a form of embroidery in which yarn is stitched through a stiff open weave canvas -- was found in the cave of a Pharaoh who lived in 1500 BC.

Three millennia later Ralph Wileman’s work, stitched in yarn on canvas, continues the ancient tradition in a manner that is anything but traditional. In the hands of this octagenarian artist, the stereotype that needlepoint is a utilitarian “craft” pastime of women is transcended and transgressed.

Needlepoint works of art are rarely seen in contemporary art confines. Though highly praised for their technical achievements, and frequently found on display at historic sites or museums, many needlepoint works of the past and present are still defined as "hand work". Much needlepoint today is not original and is created by filling in pre-painted canvas.

When work is originally designed and classically rendered, it should be considered worthy of wall space in art museums and galleries. Of note is an article in The New Yorker (January 7, 2013) that praised a most modern needlepoint tapestry by Sophie Taeuber-Arp, presented as part of a recent MOMA show on Abstraction in Art. The article author, Peter Schjeldahl, is intriqued by "slightly dissonant, gently jazzy visual harmony" of this work. This recognition of needlepoint as original expression is a welcome relief. Time to move this medium away from the accepted traditional forms into more refreshing and imaginative works worthy of the modern world!

Special thanks to Laurel Snead for her analysis and observations about the value of needlepoint as fine art.