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Textile Art

Alighiero Boetti
Mappa, 1979-80
Embroidery on canvas
130 x 230 cm (51.2 x 90.6 in.)
© Alighiero Boetti, DACS 2022

Textile art, composed of natural or artificial fibers, is a craft that has been practiced across cultures and throughout history. Weaving, crocheting, knitting, felting, pleating, and looping are some of the techniques that have been used in tandem with a variety of materials, including cotton, linen, silk, and wool. In the Middle Ages, tapestries were a popular form of textile art, often depicting scenes from mythology or religious stories, while during the Renaissance, wealthy families commissioned elaborate textiles for their homes, such as carpets and silk brocades.

In the 20th century, artists began to explore the social and conceptual implications of textiles, as well as use them in new contexts. Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Anni Albers, and Sheila Hicks used textiles to explore abstraction and challenge the idea that textiles are only associated with domestic and “feminine” work. Other artists, such as Betye Saar, Faith Ringgold, and Rosemarie Trockel, have woven their personal stories and delivered autobiographical messages through textiles. For instance, Betye Saar often incorporates found textiles and materials into her assemblage sculptures, exploring issues of identity, race, and history. Faith Ringgold is renowned for her painted story quilts, combining narrative and visual elements to tell stories of African American life and history. Rosemarie Trockel's work with textiles often subverts traditional craft techniques, exploring themes of gender and domesticity, while also commenting on art history and the role of the artist.

The collaborative nature of textile art is highlighted in the Italian artist Alighiero Boetti's Mappa series, which featured intricate embroidered maps of the world created with Afghan craftswomen. The project challenged traditional notions of authorship and the division between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. Textile art continues to take various forms, and artists continue to explore the medium in new and innovative ways, from traditional weaving to cutting-edge digital technology. Ultimately, textile art remains a rich and diverse medium that celebrates the beauty and complexity of the world around us.

Related categories

Mixed Media



Media Study



Searching for Identity

Recycled Materials

History/Historical Approach

20th Century Art

Found Objects

Autobiographical Approach





Native American Art

Women Artists

Embroidery on Fabric

Race Issues

16th Century Art

15th Century Art

Personal/Social Identity

Renaissance Art