Sunday, August 01, 2010

home in Arkansas and the making of art.

I am back home in Arkansas, having caught an early morning flight from Detroit. I have a lot to think about over the coming days, ideas stimulated by our hands conference. One thing we did as a final exercise was to get into small groups and design the high school of the future which we shared with each other before closing remarks. And so, being a teacher at Clear Spring School, and working with kids pre-K through 12, my ideas are to create a new K-12 learning environment, drawing largely on what we have, but also putting making at the center, throughout all grades. I will have a better description of how that can work on another day in the blog.

One thing that I want to comment on is a rather deep and delicate subject. One woman at an open discussion at the Henry Ford Museum expressed her concerns and complaint "it is impossible to make a living as an artist." She was not a member of our conference, but was in the audience while three of our conference participants offered a 30 minute public forum on making/hands-on education, and the use of making as the center of education.

One thing that I will mention is related to Oscar Wilde's comment on beauty emerging from the making of useful objects which I shared in yesterday's post. There is beauty inherent in things made with care toward the intention of usefulness. And those things often described as art, tend, too often, toward being useless, except as decoration or ornamentation. As a craftsman, working with wood in the making of useful things, I have never felt the need to present my work as "art," though occasionally others have made the judgment that it is so. Perhaps it is safest not to make that assumption myself.

When the question of making "art" arises, it seems that there is often a disconnect between the maker and the potential purchaser. Art often requires explanation and a sense of elevation. There was no such disconnect at the Makers Faire. It made the Faire refreshing and stimulating. It made the work accessible. And it may help to explain, why regardless of the huge amount of expertise available to witness at the tried and true art and craft shows that survived throughout the last thirty years, those fairs are suffering in the current market. When work is made to be used, it is made with the user and his or her needs in mind. And so, my simple question to the artist concerned over her ability to sell work, is inspired by by Oscar Wilde. Have you made anything useful? If not, consider doing so. It might really help.

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