Perhaps needlework, with the exception of mideval tapestries that depict the high-born floating through the woods, doesn't qualify as art. Probably depends on the individual who makes the qualification. Needlework these days is usually done by grandmothers and other women who have a certain amount of time on their hands.
Some modern needlework is ghastly--tissue box covers and Christmas ornaments stitched over plastic canvas, for example--but even the worst of it arises from a spirit of love and attention. Whether needlework is the product of silly, underworked women or as the result of devotion and care, it is fabricated with as much imagination as the originator can muster and its intentions are worthy.
So I define needlework as art, mostly since it's something I have enjoyed most of my life and continue to enjoy as a reverse nine-year-old. Note that I am unyielding in my refusal to work in the medium of plastic canvas.
2/29/12 - Needlepoint. Generator of sore fingertips and scraps of Persian wool. Durable medium for floral still life cushion and footstool covers, such as this one from Ted's store of heirlooms. The base is solid walnut, the cushioning kapok, and the cover stitched in the early 1900s by Ted's Grandmother, Hallie, or her sister, Maysel.
It is clearly in need of a new cover, so I set about to make one. A floral motif is traditional for this application, but I'm so not a floral type of person.
I opted for a less-traditional design, something southwest, since that's where we live. I took inspiration from a knitted sweater pattern, the mountain motif on a large ceramic Mexican bowl I picked up at the airport in Salt Lake City a couple of decades ago, the step-fret design beloved by native Americans of the southwest, and the fiery New Mexican sunset. Here's the new needlepoint cover, ready to accompany the footstool to a Silver City upholsterer.