Monday, December 5, 2011

Wyoming Dispatch: Work in Progress

I've begun my last week at Jentel, and I'm busily working to try and finish things I've started. As I was working, I couldn't help but think how interesting the image above is - it's a shot of the corner of my desk, but it really captures the tools I use - woodcarving tools, thread, electrical cords...all mixed up together. Below, the blocks from this print triptych have been reduced to print another layer of sky.

Below, the beginnings of another triptych. It's got more to come, but I really love the abstraction it creates just as it is.  They remind me of the some pieces I saw by Nadia Myre with Marie a year or so ago at the Museum of the American Indian. I remember something in her statement, about how when a land is special or sacred to you, the horizon line becomes more meaningful than just a marker for where the sky meets the ground, it's a demarcation for where your home is, where your beliefs are, where the entire story of your being and your community is based.

I'm really enjoying working this way - my little sheets of paper aren't long enough to capture the panorama of this landscape, but I also love how working this way is opening me up to some new directions. 

I've spent some time these past two days thinking about this article in the New York Times. On one hand, as an artist working in a craft tradition it's exciting to read of recognition of artists working in similar veins, ideas, and traditions. On the other, I have a lot of problems with it. First of all, the bias is towards Europe, particularly Paris, and as Jennifer pointed out, is completely ignorant of the fact DIY working methods have been thriving here in the States since the 90ies. She added that it makes no mention of its historic ties to the feminist movement, or Riot Grrls, (I would also add Asian traditions like mingei) and while touching on how artist often turn to these working methods as a refusal to participate in consumer-driven mass produced art, adds a simpering mention of how its "cheapter too!"

It is also ignorant of how craft practices have a long tradition of serving as forms of protest and activism, treating it more like some sort of fashion trend.

Beyond these ideas, it does not touch on the philosophy and reasoning that drives artists to a craft-based working methodology. As a hero of mine has said, Paulus Berensohn, has said, working with craft materials, materials made directly from nature, means that its final product directly invokes its origins in the natural world. Though it does mention how Jeanne Briand uses her breath to make her blown glass, it avoids further discussion of how craft processes involve the human body. Most craft techniques evoke the human hand.  Judith Schaechter has commented that this is why craft programs are often being cut or reduced, as this tendency also reminds viewers of the inherent messiness of the body.

I would suggest that artists are drawn to working in craft traditions because they are drawn to using their hands and bodies. Working by hand creates an intimacy with materials, a use of the hands/body as a tool, a relationship with the entire experience that is making. Between this intimacy, relationship to the body, and an affinity with the natural world in my materials, there is a world of craft philosophy that demonstrates that artists who choose to work in craft traditions are doing so with a deep convictions.  

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