Saturday, August 29, 2009

the mobile high craft vending machines have arrived

Glad I walked to work a little early this morning. Shadyside hosts the sea of small tents this weekend. People were setting up just before 8. I walked to the end of Walnut street and back to get a peek.

Many overheard vendo-craftspeople discussed the down economy. A man screwing in table legs talking about what sales were like in Texas. A small fleet of birds carved from posts. Deep white canvas closets filled with paintings each styled closely to the next, some a bit oversaturated, some with the straight-from-the-tube pigments, each booth filled with multiples of the same painting.

Whenever someone refers to something like this as an arts festival, I throw up in my mouth a little. Strong words, I know. But. This is high craft.

Please remember: high craft objects should be celebrated for the skill and labor with which they are produced.

I do not have the will to replicate items so similar to each other as to create my "brand" and market it in this particular way. I am an artist. Meaning is sewn into the decisions used to make manifest the concepts underlying the art object.

I am so going there, I am already there. Artists trade in meaning. They make useless objects (if they make objects at all), things or not-things or experiences that serve primarily to inspire thought.

If an object fits into that label "decorative art", it is high craft. "Decorative art" has, by definition, a function other than being a repository for meaning. It is adornment for your house, jewelry for your interiors. It is like buying books to display because they make you look smart. "Decorative art high craft" makes you look tasteful.

The best art you can't buy, because it exists in the gift economy. The gift economy: the work of art provides an experience that at best cannot be priced, for it transforms (or offers the perceiver the entry point to transforming) the mind of the perceiver. This change or experience cannot be priced.

While artists do concern themselves with finances, and market issues, we do so not in the "art fair" way. The high craft painter shows fifteen paintings of poppies. They are tastefully sized, each slightly oversaturated, each with the same line quality, hung inside the hut. When a booth visitor asks the high craft painter to make one 'custom' that will fit into the window-niche on the second floor, this artisan makes the painting. The high craft painter is a craftsman.

Hey, there's a place for both of us. But would you please keep your high craft hands off my job title please? For the sake of clarity? The decorative arts are incredibly important in our culture. But to spackle the same label ~ artist ~ on the guy cutting and assembling metal into beautiful flowers ~ as Sol Lewitt, whose art exists in the ephemera of directions ~ ~ ~

Comparing automobiles and french doors. Two totally different classes of activities for two totally different areas of life. No, these activities are not in a hierarchical relationship. Why call a bottle of Champagne Pinot Noir?

If you are headed into Shadyside this weekend, forget about parking anywhere close. Also bring an umbrella. It's been raining all day.

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