Tuesday, April 20, 2010

High Art vs. Low Art: Are we winning or losing?

So why is everyone creating things with their hands now-a-days? It appears to be all the rage. In a mere five years this June sites such as Etsy have taken off like wild fire! Handcrafted typography and hand-drawn illustration are becoming common place. And many are choosing to knit their own sweaters rather than purchase machine made. But why? This topic was a recent discussion between my mother-in-law and I. Neither of us seemed to come to any strong conclusions, however, I do have a couple theories.

From a personal standpoint I loathe technology, seriously
! It took me months before I gave into even creating a blog. I'm not good at texting, I know next-to-nothing about twitter and I'm horrible at facebook. But give me a paint brush or a sewing machine and I'll Martha Stewart the heck out of it— or at least try. But how do you take something such as "craft," which by some would be considered low art and recontextualize it to make it acceptable to the aristocrats of the art world?

Well I might just have your answer.....
By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art. Feeling bad that I had spent seven years in college to become a "fine artist" and currently I'm spending more time using felt and fabric rather than oil paint and canvas, a fellow M.F.A. graduate introduced me this book. While trying to avoid being too melodramatic this book has seriously been my recent art savor. I felt like what had been creating would have been mocked by my professors in college, but after reading this book I feel as though I can make a valid hybrid of all the things I love—although I'm still working on the hybrid/conceptual part.

I remember the first time I read it, saying to myself "Yes! That's exactly what I was thinking." The book emphasizes on personal experience, which for myself was the reason I was doing what I was doing. The act of doing it was far more satisfying than the final outcome. I gathered joy from each stitch; the materials I use remind me of my mother, the process is rather slow and methodical and the final outcome doesn't have to be anything more than what it truly is. The book looks at thirty-two contemporary artists and designers who are doing the same thing in an attempt to "get closer to their own lives and to the lives of others" by means of using their hands.

The "why" for each of these artists slightly varies, but every action has a reaction. 1990s was a time of "more is more" with computers, video cameras, and Adobe programs being more readily accessible. The time it took to "make" something was cut in half; not to mention the tools they were using made the craft of the final outcome almost flawless with little-to-no effort. Yet, in the end this all leads to mass production. What fun is it to be an artist if you can't get your hands dirty or you're being stripped of your
"individuality"? So artists began to rebel.

Kiki Smith might of put it best when she said, "We are all the same yet everyone is different." So the question may not be "why" is creating something with your hands become so popular...but when will we all be doing it and run into the same problem of no longer being a unique snowflakes?

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