MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is hosting what it calls the first major museum exhibit of the history of graffiti and street art.
But we're going to tell you about one L.A. street artist whose work is not on display at MOCA. She goes by the name Captain Hook, and she's part of an international movement of so-called yarn-bombers. They stitch cozies on parking meters and slip caps and mittens on cold statues.
Reporter Jennifer Sharpe recently caught up with Captain Hook at her L.A. apartment with a lap full of granny squares.
JENNIFER SHARPE: Captain Hook is taking street art back to the old school.
CAPTAIN HOOK: This is crochet on a statue. This could be happening in 1725.
SHARPE: Most street artists travel with spray paint or markers. Captain Hook, as she's asked me to call her for this story, works with a crochet needle and yarn. Her walls are public fixtures like the bronze bear statue in L.A.'s Griffith Park that stands zombie-like with its paws out. I met up with her as she embarked on what would become the bear's tenth outfit, its St. Patrick's Day attire.
CAPTAIN HOOK: I can't make the same thing over and over. I made a vest, and I made some shorts, then I made some different shorts. Then I made some lederhosen. And now, I think I'm going for the full body.
SHARPE: Like a body glove?
CAPTAIN HOOK: Yeah, a body glove in four shades of green.
SHARPE: It's ambitious, but she's confident. You see, Captain Hook grew up on a '70s commune, where she was part of the an all-girl needlepoint workforce.
CAPTAIN HOOK: You always had to be making something. So in the houses that I grew up in, there's blankets and embroidered dresses and pillows covered in needlework. I mean, we rocked it, we were good.
SHARPE: Hook estimated it would take 20 hours to finish the outfit, something the writer-actress anticipated having plenty of time for while waiting around on set.
But when I arrived at her apartment the afternoon of the installation, she was crocheting frantically.
CAPTAIN HOOK: I've been hysterical basically. I woke up at six this morning, and I made most of these squares.
SHARPE: And is this still going to be a full body glove?
CAPTAIN HOOK: No, it's going to be a shrug with a hood. It's going to be sleeves and a back and then a hood. When you sew it down, it actually looks good. This is it. This is it. Okay, we got it. We got it.
SHARPE: The time to vandalize the bear has finally arrived.
CAPTAIN HOOK: Yeah, and it's all pulled down, yeah...
Ms. VANESSA XKILLER: Genius.
SHARPE: Captain Hook's accomplice, expert seamstress Vanessa XKiller, meets us at the statue at 5 p.m. They've chosen to do the installation in broad daylight to maximize the potential for human interaction.
But in the half hour they struggle with the bear's hood, none of the people exercising, lounging in the grass, or walking their dogs seem to even notice.
CAPTAIN HOOK: Vanessa, would you agree with me that it's just weird? I don't know why it doesn't satisfy me in the way that others have.
(Soundbite of car horn)
CAPTAIN HOOK: Thanks. That was that support, right?
Ms. XKILLER: That was support, yeah.
SHARPE: Despite her disappointment, Captain Hook wakes up the next morning eager to do a drive-by. But then she gets a text from Vanessa saying someone's taken down the shrug. Hook worries that the park's maintenance crew have finally had it with her.
Who took it down?
Mr. MARSHAL BARRENA (Senior Gardener Griffith Park): That wasn't me on that one. No, that wasn't me.
SHARPE: As it turns out, the man ultimately responsible for the bear, Marshal Barrena, the park's senior gardener, is a fan.
Mr. BARRENA: It just, you know, puts a little spring in your step the next morning when you see something like that.
SHARPE: A little spring in your step?
Mr. BARRENA: Yeah, right, exactly. Hey, that's cool, you know.
SHARPE: If, in a place of 10 million people, Captain Hook has succeeded in making one gardener and a few passers-by stop and laugh, she feels she's reached her goal. And she contemplates moving on.
CAPTAIN HOOKE: I was just looking the other day, and there's a bust of Valentino that I think would look really great with a scarf.
SHARPE: Because one of the great things about Los Angeles is that there's always something else out there just begging for a pair of crocheted lederhosen.
CAPTAIN HOOK: I saw there's a dolphin in Santa Monica somewhere that is actually standing much like the bear, fins out. When I saw that, I was like: Dude, your days are numbered.
SHARPE: For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Sharpe.
NORRIS: And one final note. Over the weekend, someone outfitted the Griffith Park bear statue with Easter attire, complete with bunny ears. You've got to see this for yourself. Go to npr.org.
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