Monday, October 28, 2013

MFAs # 2

The previous post is from facebook. I got comments from other writers and a potter, which led the conversation in a different direction.

The potter said ceramics is divided between working potters, who make and sell useful objects, and academic potters, who see themselves as artists and make sculpture rather than pots.

A similar distinction may exist in writing, another commenter wrote, and this might explain the hostility of academic programs to genre writing. Genre writing is commercial and may even be useful. It doesn't hold water or coffee. But it entertains. Literary writing is art.

I commented:
I have bought a lot of stoneware over the years, and it's almost all utilitarian. I love eating off handmade plates and drinking out of handmade cups. I have one pot that I saw at the Northern Clay shop and loved, then went back to buy, and it had been returned to the artist. But the shop was able to get it back for me, and it sits on a high shelf, just to be looked at -- like my mother's Chinese oxblood vase, which serves no useful purpose except to be beautiful.

So my argument would be, ceramics can work either as art or dinnerware. But I tend to like pots, even if they are just for looking. I think that is due to all the years looking at Chinese and Japanese and Korean pots and cups and dishes in art museums.

There is nothing more beautiful that a really beautiful bowl.

Forty years ago, an auto worker asked me the difference between art and an artifact. I was sure there was a difference, but I couldn't define it. His job, by the way, was putting the rear axles on Dodge vans. All day he would bend over, pick up an axle and lift it in place, then do the same thing over and over on an assembly line that was moving fast. Since then, I have decided there is no useful dividing line between art and artifacts. It's all skill and sweat.

Once you decide all artifacts are art, then you can move on the question of what art is well-made and lovely. If a crappy paper cup is art, then its utility is no longer an excuse. It's bad art. We are surrounded by bad art.


Blogger delagar said...

I love these two posts.

9:41 AM  

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