New Folk Art Museum Celebrates the Rise of Craft During the Pandemic

LOS ANGELES — At the Pandemic Folk Art Museum, the bright gallery is filled with colorful, hand-made rugs. There are wooly yellow squiggles popping off gray backgrounds and a reptilian clown, patchworked prints and an anxiety-ridden dog. Some rugs have wobbly lines that bleed out of their otherwise rectangular canvas, others embed mirrors into their plush surface. 

Aelfie used to be textile designer Aelfie Oudghiri’s showroom, but she transformed it into the Pandemic Folk Art Museum to showcase the resurgence of craft that emerged during the coronavirus pandemic. The inaugural show, Tufted Rugs, was inspired by a TikTok trend that demonstrated how you could draw freely with a tufting gun while simultaneously creating sturdy, practical rugs. Almost none of the artists in the show had made a rug before they discovered the craft on TikTok.

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By diving into hashtags, Oudghiri collaborated with the artist Katie Holden to find the self-taught artists and invited them to exhibit, and sell, their fuzzy stacks of pancakes and tasseled tapestries. Most of them don’t sustain themselves through their practice, but you’d never guess that they’d be considered hobbyists instead of professionals. 

Jordan Blake Shepherd’s abstract rugs play with dimension and composition. She combines long and short threads to make her swirling shapes pop out from the flat surface. In “Tomato Cartwheels,” a triangular shape subtly protrudes from the otherwise relational edge, a tiny detail that makes the rug stand out.

Jordan Blake Shepherd, “LSP’s New Tattoos”

Another artist, Georgia Marutyan, dips into the tradition of esoteric art with her tapestries. “Space Crystals” shows the third eye beaming light down upon a dragonfly. Unlike others who used tufting guns, Marutyan used a punching hand tool, a more laborious, but controlled, process.

While most of the work is spirited and irreverent, there’s also religious iconography. “Flying Torah,” the scroll adorned with angelic wings in the night sky, appeared to the artist Vicki Stone in a dream. 

As for the future of the Pandemic Folk Art Museum, it is actually more of a concept than an institution. It plans to be nomadic, jumping from one host to another, ideally landing in craft-driven businesses in Los Angeles or New York City who will show work in mediums that complement their inventory.

Stone’s work feels truest to the definition of “Folk Art,” which blends art, mythos, and utility. But the rugs at the museum are too stunning to place on the floor and dirty with crumbs and muddy paw prints. They’re playful, kaleidoscopic artworks that will bring joy to our claustrophobic homes. If you haven’t redecorated during the pandemic yet, now’s the time.

Georgia Marutyan, “Space Crystals”
Installation view, Tufted Rugs, featuring (clockwise, from top right): Vicki Stone, , CC Teakell, Michael Yarisnky, and Emily Anderson
Melissa Monroe, “Childhood Memories”
Installation view, Tufted Rugs, featuring Libbie Farrell, Vicki Stone, and Missy Steele

Tufted Rugs continues at the Pandemic Folk Art Museum (8627 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, Los Angeles) through February 1.


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