Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Make and let Make

Oh, my head. The art vs craft debate comes around again. Imbrium at Nerd Knits and Ragnar
have re-opened the "never-really-closed" conversation in response to an article in Real Simple magazine that I have not read, so shall not comment on directly. As a fiber artist, and I say that without blushing, or aplogizing, I have been living with this debate for many years. In fact as I refined my own body of work, I thought about it a great deal. Is it art if it is useful? Is it only art if it embodies an idea? Back in the 90's (my grad school years), conceptual art ruled, and form was secondary. In fact, I was once told my work was not "messy" enough. It needed to be more visceral. I think they (professors) would have liked it better if I had thrown mud on my wallhangings, or took sissors to them. I also once had a conversation with a very famous performance artist who wondered aloud if women tended to go into Fiber Art because it was "safer". I think Women tend to use fiber art as their favorite medium for the same reason Men do - it speaks to them and for them in ways other materials just don't. Notice "for them". I believe that artists and crafts persons choose their own media for highly personal reasons. And that is how it should be. We need potters, and jewelers, and carpenters just as much as weavers and knitters, etc. And we also need painters and sculptors, and those who wish to explore new technologies for the next great idea. What we do not need are divisions that place one kind of artform in higher value than another.

And now, a disclaimer. At this moment the gallery portion of my shop is featuring handknit items from local knitters. The requirement that frames the show is that the work be of yarn that I dyed. I am in awe of the remarkable talent in both execution, and in the design decisions made. I am showing these garments as I would any artwork. On the wall, with labels. For this month, these garments are beautiful objects, whose only function, for now, is to be admired. DuChamp argued that it is all context. I guess I would agree with that. What do you think?

1 comment:

Kristin said...

Its all context:
Sounds like DuChamp was on to something... if you hang a chair sideways on a gallery wall its a "concept" if it sits in your kitchen its just a chair, and if you paint it with designs and patterns then its crafty? (crafty being in this case decorative objects for use?) When a fiber artist creates a wall hanging is there any less time involved than if you create something similar that has a function as a bedspread? When did High Art separate from its function? Galleries and art critics have not been around forever- highly complicated tapestries were a symbol of wealth and meant to warm a home. Sculptures were commission to decorate homes and again show off wealth.

Also I think that famous performance artist was full of crap and just trying to sound profound and intellectual instead of just sexist. He/She obviously only considered fiber arts "safer" because he/she saw it as a feminine art form and sought to discredit it.

much love