Knitted superheroes take on a new dimension in Super Heroics exhibition at the ASU Art Museum, June 25 - Sept. 3

Newport knits the last stitches on his Spiderman costume.

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

TEMPE, Ariz. - Batman and the Fantastic Four may be the high-tech heroes of the Hollywood box office this summer, but fiber artist and Arizona State University art professor Mark Newport pays homage to his favorite comic book characters in low-tech fashion. Nearly a dozen hand-knitted life-sized superhero costumes and 10 embroidered comic book covers make up Newport's solo exhibition Super Heroics , at the Arizona State University Art Museum June 25 - Sept. 3. A public reception will be held June 24, 7-9 p.m.

Newport may be a trendsetter among fine artists. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, more guys are knitting and admitting it. The formerly-known-as-Grandma-hobby has merged into the pop culture mainstream with television shows like DIY Network's Knitty Gritty and magazines that tout the craft as "cool again." For Newport, knitting was a natural progression of his work as a fiber artist and father of two young children.

"Turning the superhero inside out is a way for me to present an understanding of masculinity," says Newport. "Superheroes suggest strength, but knitting them or covering them with embroidery provides a softness that is contradictory to their image."

Born in 1964, in Amsterdam, New York, Newport was like other boys in his generation who were heavily influenced by superhero comic books. He purchased comics based on the artistic qualities of the covers, which gave him inspiration for his drawings. One summer his grandmother taught him to knit so he would stay out of trouble.

While pursuing a master of fine arts degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1990s, Newport made abstract sculpture relating to gender and male identity. In 1995 he began creating beaded sports trading cards, later expanding that concept into embroidered comic book covers. He took the idea of softening the superhero another step further in 2003 when he began knitting the full-sized costumes. It takes two months to knit a costume and he uses himself as a mannequin.

"Knitting is usually associated with the feminine identity, but Newport views it in quite a different way," says curator John Spiak. "His knitting needles create the wardrobes of the super heroes and express his own ideas about identity and being male in our culture."

The Chicago Sun-Times said Newport's superheroes "can break down gender stereotypes as easily as they can crash through walls."

Super Heroics is the largest exhibition of Newport's work to date.

Since 1996, Newport has participated in 60 group exhibitions and 12 solo exhibitions nationally. He also has been awarded several grants, most recently from the Creative Capital Foundation of New York for his project Ready for Action - a series of digital images documenting him performing in his superhero costumes and examining the theme of protection. Some of those images also will be on exhibit in Super Heroics.

The ASU Art Museum is part of the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University and is located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10 th Street in Tempe. Hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and admission is free. For more information, call (480) 965-2787 or visit the museum online at

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay