Is it Art? Is it Craft? My Head Hurts

When we hear the term “crafts” we generally think of little artworks that involve pipe cleaners and tissue paper and a huddle full of boys and girls. If you’re trying to be mature about it you might reference the Arts and Crafts Movement and their elaborately decorated handcrafted household goods. “Crafts” is such an ambiguous little word and to complicate things even further if you omit the “s” it becomes something entirely different, in the art world anyway. Craft implies work/labor that is done by a skilled person. Think Stradivarius violin, the opposite of mass produced.  Some contemporary artists use craft methodology to make objects for aesthetic reasons rather than functional ones. This studio craft tends to align itself more with the critical theory that occurs in fine art. And this is where things get fuzzy.

A recent statement by University of Louisville graduate students from the Hite Art Institute says this. “Art. Craft. At some point in history, a hierarchical distinction was made between these two terms. While both are used to describe an object created by a skilled person, craft is often allocated to functional products that seemingly lack the creativity of art. This distinction is amplified by adding an “s” to craft.”  This is part of Aegis’ Third Biennial Symposium on Art History and Visual Culture titled Taking the “s” out of Craft hosted by the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft on Saturday. The discussion will be focused on distinctions being made between craft and fine art and how these terms are reunited in select artist’s works. An exhibit featuring local and national contemporary artists who employ media or techniques traditionally associated with “craft” will be on view on the first floor gallery. The exhibition is curated by the University of Louisville graduate students from the Hite Art Institute.

4 thoughts on “Is it Art? Is it Craft? My Head Hurts”

  1. Yes, Thank you it helps to know about the symposium, but I wanted to know the names of the artists in the exhibition of sculpture at the Museum. I know Bette levy is in it and was wondering who else is exhibiting. Thanks for responding.

    1. The artists whose works are on view in the exhibtion are:
      Cheryl Donegan
      Bette Levy
      Norma Minkowitz
      Jeff Ruemeli
      Joyce Scott
      Peter Voulkos
      Boris Zakic

      On behalf of the curators of the exhibiton, AEGIS, The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, and The Hite Art Institute, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to the artists, galleries, and colllectors for their generous participation in the exhibition “Taking the (s) out of Craft” and for their contribution to the continuing dialogue on the role of craft in contemporary culture.

      Slade Stumbo
      curatorial committee member

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