Thursday, June 07, 2012

the thing-i-ness of things...

I have been reading Howard Risatti's A Theory of Craft, a book given to me, or loaned (I don't know which) by Ken Trapp, former curator of the Renwick Craft Collection of the Smithsonian, who had also written the preface to Risatti's excellent book. You can simply open a chapter and find great reflection on the role of crafts in modern life. The following is from his chapter on the "Thingness of the Thing."
"...the identity of craft objects is inherent in their ability to function and their ability to function is inherent in their "thingness" as things, as physical objects. This is not true of works of fine art; their ability to function, to "communicate" is not directly dependent on their thingness as things... they are re-presentations of the world and whether real or imaginary, re-presentations are always signs for or of something they are not. But craft objects qua objects are not signs but objects that function, and objects that function are first understood by and through function."
Ken had warmed me that I would have to wade deep to land trout. As a maker of things that are easily recognized for their function, but also serve cultural or even spiritual functions, without Dr. Risatti's discussion, there are already things known to me, and that would be quite obvious to most of my readers without going so deep. There are no clear lines between art and craft. There are lines within people's perceptions, within people's judgements, within the foolishness of human culture, that keep us from seeing, keep us from engaging, keep us from looking closely and keep us from touching to perceive a world that can be as beautiful to the touch as it might be to the eye. As the graphic arts prove over and over again, you can easily fool the eye. The graphic arts are all about illusion. But to fool the hand is a far greater challenge. In fact, while the purpose of graphic arts is directly to deceive and thus perhaps illuminate, the purpose of crafts, while they too may offer deception, is bound to honesty and truth by the functions they serve.

Ken had said that the Japanese have all kinds of words to express the simple notion "beauty". A part of beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. A part most often overlooked is in the integrity of the maker of it. The arts have sadly become an area for the discussion of BS, rather than of discovery and illumination. Language has a way of pushing us to that point.

Today I want to offer my congratulations to a good friend, Zeek Taylor, who was just awarded a life-time achievement award in the arts, by Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. The honor is very much deserved.

In my wood shop, I am cleaning, having already shipped boxes and delivered work to be sold in a local gallery. My apology to Dr. Risatti, for the title of this post. The title of his chapter reminded me of Dr. Seuss, and I couldn't help myself.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

Zeek Taylor Art said...

Thanks, Doug, for the "congrats." Glad that you are my friend.