Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Art vs. Craft Discussion

Studio, thinly disguised as a garage...
I've always found this discussion to be mildly annoying and for me moot because the only way to settle the distinction is through the work itself. That is, if there is even a distinction to be made, of which I am unconvinced. And if you're talking about it, you're not working on it. And if you're not working, you'll never create work that somebody will want to try to put in the "craft vs. art" box. Also, I should mention that I hate boxes. Which is kind of funny, because while I've recently had to conclude that I am not the neat freak I thought I was, I am somehow obsessive-compulsive enough to try to organize my belongings, and I routinely find boxes of stuff within boxes of stuff, within other boxes. But I digress...

I oftentimes think these sorts of "intellectual discussions" are rather clever methods of procrastination disguised as important. I also think the more intelligent one is, the more clever and sneaky the procrastinations, to the point that even the person procrastinating doesn't realize he or she is in the throes of a really good one. For example, I find myself writing in this blog about a topic that I've already mentioned I find mildly annoying if not altogether moot -- don't think for a second that the irony escapes me.

Ultimately, the work stands on its own, and I find this reassuring. But if you're thinking and talking about art vs. craft, you're probably not working. I'm stingy that way: anything that takes time away from my working time sucks for me, and that includes esoteric discussions of whether or not an artist is engaged in making "craft" or "art." When I make something, I'm doing it because I have to for the most part. That is, I have an idea of something that I have to make, and I cannot be satisfied and therefore happy, until I have made it. (If you consider yourself an artist and are working for any other reason, we can talk about that issue another time.) Generally, I don't give a damn how somebody wants or needs to categorize the work. The mildly annoying part for me is that by attempting to categorize an artist's efforts, the categorizor is judging whether the categorizee's work is "better" or "best." This pigeon-holing has no bearing whatsoever on what I make next. It doesn't create some sort of intellectual shortcut that allows me to skip steps on my journey, so again it becomes moot.

The other problem I have with the art vs. craft debate besides the fact that it is an argumentative time sink, is that it sucks the magic right out of the artistic soul. For example, sometimes I get an idea to make something, and something else happens during the process. This type of event can be extremely cool or extremely frustrating. Either way, it gets me farther along my artistic path.

Or sometimes I sit down to make something, and I have an amazing out-of-body experience where I am at peace and in that place of absolute nirvana, and it's as if I am merely a conduit for something greater than myself. That's the adrenaline rush. That's why I keep working. Because quite frankly, I can probably count those times on one hand. And I've been "making stuff" since I could grip a pencil and hit a sheet of paper with it. Don't get me started on cardboard and some paste. Anyway, the art-vs.-craft debate could not be farther from my motivation in either of these two examples.

Lot of surface patterning. Or superficial design?

Were I to analyze a feature of my own work, I would say it's no mere coincidence that I enjoy pattern-making on the surface of my glass -- I'm not at all interested in the artificial perception of great depth that can be achieved with glass. Just as I hate wasting time on unanswerable questions. Don't even get me started on, "Why am I here?" or "What is the meaning of life?" So debate away. I would find it extremely disappointing if anyone ever answered the question of whether something is art or craft in any sort of definitive way. Meanwhile, I continue to do the work so that there is something upon which to pass judgement, for ultimately that's the reason for the debate. And quite frankly, the answer will not affect this artist's pathway. And if it did cause some sort of effect, what kind of artist would I be?

1 comment:

Louise Mehaffey said...

I couldn't agree more. I hate that question "Why do you make art?" Simply because I have to. Whether it is art or craft doesn't matter to me. Other people can debate that while I make more "stuff!"