A question about sculpture and crafts… comments welcome.

Here in Mt P we have an annual art show which attracts over 200 entries from hobbyists and some professional level artists. It’s coming up on the first weekend of September and coincides with another major cultural event ‘The Mt Perry Dump Truck Pull’, which does literally involve teams of people pulling a very large mining truck down the main street for glory and charity. It’s worth noting they raise about $12k each year which is pretty nifty for a tiny town. When people have finished slowly moving massive pieces of machinery, we try to encourage them to come to the hall and see the art and have some rather fine baked goodies.

I digress…

Today I was asked if a hand made bound book could be put into our sculpture section. And I couldn’t answer very articulately and wondered if anyone had any thoughts? I saw the book and it’s beautiful, but seemed more a craft item as it didn’t have any ‘content’ or conceptual basis … and clumsily explained this. But I wonder if anyone has some comments that would help explain the position.

I found this on the British Arts Council website:

The current dictionary definition of sculpture as ‘the art or process of creating representational or abstract forms, either in the round or in relief’, does not tell the whole story.  This notion was first challenged over forty years ago when new practices and a greater diversity in the range and use of materials extended the vocabulary.  The term can now be said to encompass installation, land art, body art, performance art, text-based work, photography and video, as well as the three-dimensional art object.
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13 thoughts on “A question about sculpture and crafts… comments welcome.

  1. If you place any object or activity (including thought) in a “Sculpture” context, the British Arts Council will accept it as sculpture? In the event that you include the book, it is unlikely that a visitor will respond with an angry performance. CC

  2. Another interesting question is what is Craft? Maybe the original concept, design, execution of an object (being old school here) is art. When I can reproduce the results with minor variations and another person can reproduce that pattern with equal of greater “skill,” then it is a craft? “Art” became slippery once it slipped the tidy bonds of the Academies. CC

  3. It has been my observation that handmade books are usually entered in competitions in the ‘Works on Paper’ section. However it is a grey area according to your findings. If the piece is good enough to win in the section it is ultimately entered into, then maybe it doesn’t matter where it is entered specifically.

  4. Native Americans see NO difference b/w art and craft. I think we usually consider ‘craft’ as something usable….but then, there are artful ceramics that are usable, eh?
    To get to your question, Adrienne….if it is one of your books or ones like Susan’s…definitely sculpture. The ‘juror’ or selection committee can decide if there is a question. But, if a ‘professional’ artist submits one….it’s sculpture. It’s also partially an ego thing with people other than Native Americans, I suppose. No REAL answer….always a tough question.

  5. Native Americans see NO difference b/w art and craft. I think we usually consider ‘craft’ as something usable….but then, there are artful ceramics that are usable, eh?
    To get to your question, Adrienne….if it is one of your books or ones like Susan’s…definitely sculpture. The ‘juror’ or selection committee can decide if there is a question. But, if a ‘professional’ artist submits one….it’s sculpture. It’s also partially an ego thing with people other than Native Americans, I suppose. No REAL answer….always a tough question.

  6. Tangent Three:
    Do we make distinctions between our “commercial” art and Art?

  7. yes, we do, CC. Well, except Warhol, who made commercial HIS fine art….and Jeff (f’ing) Koons (personal description there, ha). But mostly, yes, we do. Thank whomever.
    And how the heck did mine above get on here twice? Tried to remove but couldn’t figure out how. so, enjoy it twice.

  8. Good to talk about this. Thanks ewes.
    I think this particular book is not intended as an art piece, but what’s great is it may trigger a great conversation locally about artists books, and where the line blurs between art and craft/commercial works. After a long life in commercial art, I would often question when does a commercial illustration become a piece of artwork.
    In the end I believed answer lies in the ‘contract’? If there’s a pre determined contract, a defined brief, and requested use, that must surely move it away from a piece of free-wheelin’ creativity to a more ‘commercial’ work. And then there lies the ‘commissions’ blur…

    Phssssssssssttttt! (the sound of the can of worms opening)

  9. Parenthetically Peppered Pontificatory Ramble Alert . . . Aahhhrrrg. My head hurts!

    Free-wheeling creativity is but one definition of art, though yeah, It is often my professed preference in practice. “Uses” change from the original intention over time. Commissioned ephemera becomes collectable. Venerated ritual “objects” become collectable. Across many cultures “sacred” and “cultural” forms are intentionally marketed for the tourist trade.

    I believe that some contemporary Native Americans consider themselves “Fine Artists” first and do make a distinction between art and craft. (Anyone want to weigh in on Art / Culture / Commercial / Sacred and Aboriginal Australians?) I gather from Author/Illustrator Eric Sloan “Great Champion of Americana” that before industrialization European Americans made little distinction between art and craft, blending “decorative art” with the most prosaic utilitarian object. That impulse seems to be close to universal as well.

    You can drink your coffee from a machine extruded cup; that formerly commercial-pottery manufactured, hand thrown stoneware mug becomes an aesthetic and tactile choice, made by an “Artisan” . . . or?

    When Trevor repurposes found objects they are transformed. My mind shutters between what those objects are or were, and pattern and relief.

    Adrienne, this stuff rattled around in my head through yesterday. Thank you ; ) That book may or may not be in the sculpture category, but it IS installed in my mind for a bit. Time for that coffee ’cause my mind is not racing enough. Yeah, stoneware mug.

    Shut up and make art CC, whatever that may be, right?

  10. Oh CC, if art can be provocative then that link was for me… just because it has meaning to that artist, is it art? Now there’s provocative…

    On Australian Indigenous Art, we can only observe from the outside hey, and like all art there is so many movements within it. I don’t know the answer to the question about how they viewed their work – art or craft – and can only imagine from readings that originally it was all about utility and ceremony.

    I lived in the Northern Territory for 3 years and did a lot of trips out into the landscape both with work and play, and the rarely visited art sites we saw (with permission) were staggeringly beautiful – documentations of daily life and ceremony and decoration. Their stunning woven baskets (dilli bags), pukamani poles http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/3074290912/, bark paintings are now popular items for we tourists. And it was said to me that Aboriginal people are really comfortable making these items for sale, as I questioned how the artist may feel that I was buying a burial pole for my lounge room! That one I bought was made for ‘my lounge room’, not for a burial or a birth. The artist had made a distinction in the making.

    The more recent paintings on canvas are equally sought… the origins of which came from sand paintings in the desert and (I think in the mid 60’s) paint and canvas was introduced to the desert people, then painting with these mediums spread to the many communities around the country.
    I might post a snapshot of some pieces we bought before we moved back to Qld.

  11. Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

    Three Rivers Petroglyphs. This is a site aways from your NM Travel corridor A. At the turn off, is an old commercial building that was a source for one of Dave’s watercolors featured in an earlier post. CC

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