29 September 2009

Upcoming Class


Class 919 -
Jump Start Your Imagery

Do you have the artist's equivalent of writer's block? Do you have lots of half formed ideas and don't know which one to use? Are you worried that you'll be repeating yourself if you work with an idea more than once? Do you think that none of your ideas will be good enough; that it has all been done before and it just doesn't matter? Join this 2-day workshop to discard self-defeating thoughts and build your creative energy.Find the ideas you need in order to take your first steps along a new path of sustainable creative endeavor. We will use writing and drawing for intensive imagining sessions. Later we will use cut glass shapes to make images in fused glass. The resulting pieces will be something you can keep as a reminder of how to get started again when you feel stuck. About the instructor

InstructorAllegra Marquart
DatesSat / Sun Oct 3 / 4
Time11 am - 4pm

Click HERE to jump to Washington Glass School class list.

About the instructor:

Allegra Marquart has been teaching printmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for decades. Nine years ago she began to include glass as a way to strengthen and revitalize her imagery. Her glass artwork is featured at international art venues, including SOFA Chicago and Palm Beach 3. She currently has her work on exhibit at both Maurine Littleton Gallery in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC and at the Emerson Gallery in the McLean Project for the Arts in McLean, VA.

Click HERE to see Allegra's website.

28 September 2009

Food & Friends Memorial Wall

The Washington Glass Studio created the new donor wall for the charity organization Food & Friends. The mission of Food & Friends is to foster a community caring for men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses by preparing and delivering specialized meals and groceries in conjunction with nutrition counseling. The new donor wall was dedicated in the newly landscaped 'Garden of Gratitude' this past weekend.

Cast glass leaf panels with inset memorials.

Click HERE for more information about Food & Friends

24 September 2009

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Kevin Mellema of FCNP reviews McLean Project for the Arts shows - including Allegra Marquart and Michael Janis' glass artwork. Novie Trump's ceramic works are also reviewed.
Kevin also reviews Michael Janis and Allegra Marquart at Maurine Littleton Gallery.

Click HERE for the link to the entire article.

excerpt from the FCNP:

To Tell the Tale: Works by Allegra Marquart, Michael Janis and Tom Baker, at the MPA (1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean). The exhibit runs through Nov. 7, and the gallery is open Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturday 1 – 5 p.m. For more details, call 703-790-1953 or visit www.mpaart.org.

Allegra Marquart and Michael Janis both work in glass out of the Washington Glass School in Mt. Rainier, Md. Tom Baker is a print maker from New Jersey.

Baker's prints seem to juxtapose destructive and utilitarian objects in playfully similar ways. A coil spring stands beside a falling bomb with corkscrew spiraling trajectory trailing behind it. Similarly, an underwater mine sits ready to destroy anything that touches it, while a ship's propeller motors past unscathed.

Allegra Marquart produces multi-colored relief glass panels that depict children's fables. Maraquart's works resemble wood block prints, not surprisingly, because she came from printing to glass making and at times, still makes wood block prints.

Marquart's panels spare none of the gory details in what are often fairly graphic childhood tales. The combination of crude, often heavy handed childhood tales, with the cool, highly polished glass surfaces, gives the works a natural sense of tension.

Michael Janis is showing his re-interpretations of tarot cards.

In addition to the images here at MPA, both Janis and Marquart have works on view through October at the Maurine Littleton Gallery in upper Georgetown (1667 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.). The Georgetown gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more details, call 202-333-9307 or visit www.Littletongallery.com).

Marquart's work seems of a uniform mien at both locations. Janis however has two new large panel works and nine smaller 12-by-12-inch panels at Littleton Gallery.

Michael Janis's "Words Left Unsaid."

While the tarot card pieces are interesting, they come off as a bit literal at times. The new smaller pieces at Littleton, however, are anything but. Those works have a mysterious dream state sense of surrealism that engages the viewer on a deeper more engrossing level. Using figures, text and common objects we are left to our own devices to figure out the story.

One fairly straightforward image titled, "Words Left Unsaid," shows a man with a jumble of letters floating in his throat. It's a notion most all of us can relate to. How would things be different if we released the words behind our mouths. Would the world be better or worse for it? Would our lives be fulfilled, or would our deepest fears be realized by their release? Would we even have the chance to say them at all if we wait too long?

We can't answer any of those questions here. All we can do is stare at the man and wonder at his fate and the fate of those around him. We sense his need to speak, but can't make out what it is from the disjointed jumble of letters on view. Perhaps even he doesn't yet know exactly what to say just yet. All nine of the smaller panels are filled with entertaining and somewhat voyeuristic questions.

23 September 2009

Washington Post reviews Gateway Arts

Today's Washington Post Metro section had a full article about the Gateway Arts District, which includes Mount Rainier, MD where the Washington Glass School is located. For the past 10 years, the Prince George's County area has worked at revitalizing the area and changing it from empty lots and abandoned warehouse storage into a funky arts community. The article's tone was disappointingly snarky, but there were some positive elements - such as quotes from area superstar artists Margaret Boozer, Tim Tate and comments and a photo of Novie Trump.
Novie Trump working in Flux Studio
photo by Mark Gail - The Washington Post

The Post also had a photograph that was captioned with incorrect info - the imagery on the glass panel is not a photograph, but a drawing made from frit powder.
Michael Janis with sgraffito imagery on glass
photo by Mark Gail - The Washington Post

For the entire article - click HERE

22 September 2009

New Glass Review Call For Entries

Download New Glass Review 31 Prospectus (PDF - opens in a new window)

Each year the Corning Museum of Glass conducts a worldwide competition to select 100 images of new works in glass. A jury of designers, artists, curators and critics make the selection.
Only glass designed and made between Oct 1, 2008 and Oct 1, 2009 are accepted for this survey. Deadline Oct 1, 2009. $20 entry fee. Last year, Washington Glass School's Michael Janis was one of the artists selected.

Click HERE for more info.

21 September 2009

Bullseye Glass E-Merge 2010

e-merge 2010 is the sixth biennial, juried kiln-glass exhibition for emerging artists sponsored by Bullseye Glass Co.—a manufacturer of colored glass for art and architecture with worldwide distribution and a strong commitment to education and promoting glass art. Hosted for the first time at Bullseye Gallery, this exhibition will recognize students and early-career artists who are rising through the ranks of kilnformed studio glass but who are not yet represented by major galleries. e-merge 2010 offers over $5,000 in prizes in the form of Bullseye gift cards and conference scholarships. Finalists and their works will be represented in a full-color exhibition catalog with photos, bios, and artist statements. Submitted works must be made with Bullseye glasses. They will be judged for excellence of concept, craftsmanship, and design.

Our instructor of The Glass Bowl class, Diane Cabe, was a finalist of the award in 2004.

Entry fee $35.

For more information - click HERE to jump to BE competition info page.

News From Across The Pond

Artists from the UK's Cohesion Glass Network were some of this year's Artomatic highlights. The work from the Brits was astounding, and the artists were a fun and energetic force as they stormed the US Capital.
Stephen Beardsell cast glass demo

Click HERE to jump to Cohesion Network's newsletter with their review of the DC arts festival.

Click HERE to read what UK artists Sarah Blood & Joanne Mitchell thought of the show - from an artist's perspective.

16 September 2009

American Craft Magazine

The latest issue of American Craft Magazine was delivered today - and inside the glossy pages was a gorgeous layout from the Virginia A Groot Foundation on the 2009 recipients. Tim Tate was the First Prize winner for 2009, and his work was the ad's central image:
For more information on the Virginia A Groot Foundation grants for sculptural work- click HERE

11 September 2009

A True Story That Happened To Tim Tate From Several Years Ago

The Worst New York Gallery Experience in History

I fully realize that beginning with that title is tantamount to throwing down a gauntlet to every artist who reads this, but bear with me.

In the end, you'll be the judge.

For the sake of this article the events and the gallery discussed here. This is not an effort to protect the gallery, but an attempt to make this experience a little more universal. Remember, this could have happened to you. This was several years ago.

My tale begins with a common enough event... a charity auction. As artists, we participate in many such events. This one was particularly prestigious and national in scope. As luck would have it, my piece ended up in the live auction section and with spirited bidding created quite a stir. It was at this point that I was first approached by the "New York Gallery."

"Your work is incredible!" they said, "We would love to represent your work in our Chelsea gallery and also take you to SOFA New York! ( A large art fair in NYC)

What a fantastic opportunity... finally New York representation... and at SOFA NY to boot! All seemed right with the Universe.

As a non-New York artist I share a commonly held belief that if I could just procure gallery sponsorship in the Big Apple that my career would definitely take a big leap forward. No longer would I be a regional artist; I would become nationally known. Naive perhaps, but I entered this ordeal with these rose-colored beliefs.

My first hint of unease came when the gallery insisted that I do an "Installation." I knew that SOFA NY was not about installation work and neither was I at the time, but hey, what the heck? It's about time I moved in that direction. Don't all great artists? The gallery also claimed to have many clients who were museum curators who bought installation work. Ok.....done!

And video..... they want a video from me. Not just a bio.... but a video art piece. Great again! I've had a video I've wanted to do in my head for years, so here at last was my chance. The gallery owners say that they had numerous clients for videos who pay from $5,000 to $7,000 dollars for a single copy.


Ok..... sure... I was skeptical, but I wanted to believe so badly! Here I was heading to New York as a video and installation artist. Pretty cool, huh? Obviously, New York was just waiting for me!

Unfortunately, the Universe has a tendency to punish such hubris. Lessons need to be learned the hard way. Let me also clarify. This story is not about money... it is about the validation that a New York gallery can impart to those of us outside of New York.

I spent the next 6 weeks making all the components for the big day. My regular art is quite labor-intensive. Throw in the video and I was kept very busy until the day I left for New York.

Now the fiasco begins.

Day One

My team gets to the SOFA space an hour ahead of me and calls to say that no one from the gallery is there, and that all the artists are confused as to where to install.

We knew the exact size of the space for our installation, so they have measured and decide that only one space is the correct size. They begin to install.

I arrive to SOFA..... not as an observer as in years past, but triumphantly as an honored participant! I get to the space and discover that my space is the only space in SOFA that actually faces the wall... not the aisle where the people are.

The owners arrived about this time and tell me not to worry. Everybody sees everything at SOFA. "Jeez," I think, "but what can I do? At least I'm at the show....and it won't be the first time I've overcome bad placement in a show." I’m just happy to be invited to this party.

Now that the owners have arrived it is clear that they have had a huge fight. They are a couple going through a painful and public divorce. For the purposes of this story we will know them as Joe Young and Joe Old.

Not surprisingly, Joe Old is the one with all the money, but Joe Young is the one with all the power. For some inexplicable reason Joe Young (and I mean young) has been given total control over the gallery, without a clue how to accomplish this. He is on a mission to become the cutting edge gallery in Chelsea. (see prior notes regarding hubris).

By this time my team and I have installed my work..... a little tight and very hard to find, but I'm at SOFA . So Joe Young says, "Hey, before you guys leave, could you help us move a pipe? Its another artists work, but its over at the gallery and we have to move it here."

"Ok, sure. We'd be happy to help!" and besides, I'm dying to see the gallery space. (I know.... and no, I hadn't ever seen the gallery).

It turns out there are six of us riding down in an SUV. Wow...this must be some pipe! This could not have been truer, as the pipe is 4ft high, 2ft. wide and 1/2 inch thick. This is one heavy pipe! With all of us helping (except the owners...who have strangely disappeared again), we get the pipe in the SUV. Now we enter the gallery.

It is in a wonderful building, filled with wonderful galleries. This is a good sign. This is a building I have always wanted to show in. Ok.... they have the smallest and most buried space in the building, but they are still here. We enter the gallery.

Standing in the middle of the gallery is a coat rack filled with coats and a picnic table covered in trash. Trash also covers the floor. Empty Coke bottles, mustard jars, Boone's Farm, Cheez-Whiz...... it's seems like some exploded leftovers from a Tennessee picnic.

"Oh my God!", I say, "What on earth happened!?!?".

"What do you mean?" they say, "This is an installation. Its all about consumerism."

Oh Lord.... I remember when kids would put a box of S.O.S. pads on a pedestal and called it consumerism art.... is that fad back again? I sincerely hope not. Maybe I'm just out of touch; I mean after all, I'm a non-New York artist. What do I know?

My work has been thought out for weeks. Every piece has been scrupulously made and the installation subtly and thoughtfully tells a story common to us all. Maybe this heavy-handed consumerism approach is back again. I hope that I haven't made a mistake!

OK.... home to bed... I want to get lots of sleep before the big day.

As I walk into the booth the next day, I see that the other artists showing with my gallery have had time to install their work.

Boy have they!

I should say that there is a glass artist, a wood artist and a ceramic artist sharing my booth (and who also share my fate).

In front of the booth they have forced the ceramic artist to put her work into a structure that looks like a puppet theater.... complete with red velvet curtains.

Next to me is another pile of picnic refuse as well. It seems that it is the brainchild of the gallery owner.

It's what he thinks the wood guy should be doing. "It's all about chaos theory," he says. Well... I agree about the chaos part.

On the other side of me is a huge installation titled "Dictator." This consists of two walls completely crammed with coffee mugs, t-shirts, pillows, thongs and boxer shorts with the word "Dictator" on them. Again..... its about consumerism (Ok..I get it).

The giant pipe is also there.

Well..... it's now very very tight to get into the booth..... maybe five feet of entry space left. Let's see..... how can they close it off more?

I know!...... let's paint a foozball table grey and completely cover four of the last five feet of entry space.

And let's put DVD players right at that last opening (although they never show the video that they had claimed they would show to curators).

The booth looks like a grocery store and a Thrift shop have mated. If you manage to wiggle in to see my work, it's extremely difficult to see it at all because it is surrounded by so much stuff.

The owners have also hired three youngsters to "sell" at the gallery. One seems to know what she is doing.... the other kids just talk about who's getting laid by whom while all the while congregating at the only one foot entrance into the booth.

Its now 5PM and the big black tie opening event has started.

All the big collectors, museum curators, etc. are there....... but not the owners of my gallery….they’ve been missing all day.

At 5:15; however, another 20-year-old kid runs in and says he's supposed to be hanging there too.

He's a painter..... and this is definitely not a painter's show..... but up go his paintings.

Nothing makes sense in this explosion.

There is no theme, there is no order (and there is no way to get into the space).

The owners finally arrive towards 6PM. In the meantime the painter has begun to drink heavily.

The owners have decided that their space was too simple, so in order to create a "happening" they have hired a performance artist. She is from Italy. It is her job to walk around the entire event and put red dots on all of everyone else's artwork. This is intended to create a buzz.

And buzz it creates…… people are getting very upset.

So upset that the security director escorts her out of the event. The security director believes that I am to blame because I am the only one at the booth (the owners and other artists are again no where to be found).

I assure him I am not; though this is not our last contact.

The painter.... very upset over the gallery's seeming inability to sell even one painting, has really started drinking. In fact he has had five large wine glasses filled with Scotch.

Straight Scotch.

The security director comes over to me again. "Is this your boy? " he asks. "He's peeing on the ground right over there. We are going to put him out for good."

Dear God……he is certainly NOT my boy!

I had better at least try to get him into a cab. After all, he is one of my fellow artists from the gallery (The owners are still invisible).

I go outside and try to talk some sense into him and send him home to his girlfriend. He is immediately hot headed..... so I start to go inside. At this moment, finally, one of the gallery owners comes outside; Joe Old.

Bad timing.

The painter is really wound up about promises not kept by the gallery. The painter takes a swing at the gallery owner and knocks his cell phone into traffic. The painter dives for it, narrowly missing being hit by a passing cab.

The painter grabs the cell phone, and throws it onto the roof of the neighboring building. He then turns around and punches the gallery owner full in the face. The gallery owner runs inside. Now I am left with a screaming, flailing kid on the middle of Lexington Avenue.

I'm holding him back as he rants.

It looks like I'm having a huge lover's quarrel with my child bride.

As this thought crosses my mind, I look up.

There... on the corner... is the entire staff of the most prestigious gallery for my kind of work in New York. They do not look amused.

Great! .... perfect.... just what I needed to boost my career.

How on earth could this get any worse?

I know.... let's have the cops join us, who have arrived on the scene with flashing lights.

Ok...that's worse!

The cops don't know what's happening; they are just responding to a call.

Their belief is that he and I are both creating a disturbance. I tell the cop that I barely know this kid, I'm just trying to get him a cab. The cop says that I have one minute to do so or he will run us both in.


I hail a cab and pay the driver $40 out of my pocket to get this kid to Brooklyn; why I will never know. The cops finally say that I can go.

By this time the huge black tie party is over... my collar is torn... and I'm out 40 bucks. Time to go home, lick my wounds, and try again the next day. Thus ended the longest day in my art career.

Day Two

Day two started off much better. I was full of hope and determined to cast off the bad mojo from the first day. I arrived on time, and again... no owners.

But hey....who needs owners? I'm at SOFA NY... I can sell my own work. Which I did almost immediately. Three pieces in fact. Alright.... this is gonna be great! Then in comes the three staff members.

Now the booth is too packed to get into again. This is when the testimonials begin.

All throughout the day artists keep coming up to me and pulling me aside. "Get your stuff out while you can!" they'd say, or "I had to sue them to finally get my money!" This happened six times that day.

And these are artists I respect; Where were all these guys when I was asking about this NYC the gallery in the first place?

And it's not just artists.

Its other gallery owners. They look at me consolingly and tell me how sorry they are for me. They, without exception, advise me to get my work out of there before the train wreck occurs. I sold nothing more that day; I left with a sick feeling.

Day Three

Day three continues along those lines, only today it's the other artists and gallery staff that offer tales of terror.

The most lucrative artist they show there tells me that while he has sold lots for them, he has yet to receive money. He is told his work is hanging in a millionaire's home and that the gallery hasn't been paid yet.

This was three months ago.

He also tells me that the owners are furious with me. "Why?," I ask.

"Because you sold three pieces of artwork."


Seems that if you sell artwork and they don't, they get upset...supposedly because it points out they can't sell.

Huh? They hadn’t even come to work that day till 4pm.

The woman whom they have hired to run the gallery is pretty sharp. She tells me the ship is sinking... try to get your work out ASAP.

She says that they are the laughing stock of the Chelsea art scene. This is their employee.

Lord knows we are a laughing stock here; except to the art collector who came into the booth to loudly accuse the owners of stealing a 100 dollar bill off of his dresser while they were in his home.

Day Four

Day four is known as "Skank Day."

The owners have decided that they need more attention. They decide to hire two 20-year-old girls and have them dress in thongs and skimpy t-shirts and hand out water bottles with the booth number on it.

Being that the average age of collectors attending the event is 65, you can imagine how well this is received. Enter my new friend (the security director); Out they go.

Today the owner yells at the staff, "We are NOT here to sell artwork.... we are here to sell the gallery!,"

That sure explains a lot.

Wish they had told me that going into this. I am standing in the middle of a three ring circus, and there is nothing I can do about it.

Last Day

Word has gotten out about this train wreck. Everyone comes by to offer advice. Unfortunately, I can't leave with my artwork because I have a contract with the gallery. People tell me to break my contract, but I know I can't. I check into the booth before heading to the train station. Since before I'd arrived and all during this event I have told the owners how to move my work when they de-install.

Now as I leave they start freaking out... they are uncomfortable moving it. God knows what will happen.

I am writing this on the train returning home. I have no idea if I will ever see my artwork or my money ever again. The general consensus was that they will shortly file for bankruptcy and fold me into that. So much occurred that I didn't even report here (in the interest of brevity). Suffice it to say they lied to me daily and obviously.

So..... you non-New York artists out there: Let this be a lesson to you all.

Learn the easy way for a change; not the hard way. Maybe being a regional artist is not so bad. And when you plan to stretch to the Big Apple, try and get a recommendation first. This was an incredibly costly mistake for me, but I won't stop trying. You can be sure though.... the next time I will have a lot more questions to ask.

10 September 2009

DC Arts Center features Dave D'Orio

September 11 - October 11, 2009
Opening Reception September 11, 7-9
The Poetics of Material

DC Arts Center Curatorial initiative hosts their second show, featuring how each of three artists (Kate Carr, David D'Orio and Lisa Hill) explores ideas of materiality and process through contemporary sculpture. The resulting work marries the conceptual with striking formalism, drawing from and expanding on the legacy of post-minimalism.

08 September 2009

Set-up At MPA

Installation at the McLean Project for the Arts show 'To Tell The Tale' took place this week - here are some installation pix from the day

Emerson Gallery

McLean Project for the Arts

1234 Ingleside Avenue

McLean, VA 22101

Opening Thursday, September 17, 2009, 7 PM – 9 PM

Open September 17 through November 7, 2009

'To Tell The Tale' at MPA

Top to Bottom: Allegra Marquart, The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings 18"x18", two color sand carved glass,
Michael Janis, Death Card, detail, Tarot Series 19" x 37" fused glass powder imagery

The McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) is hosting an exhibition of narrative artwork by three artists: Allegra Marquart, Michael Janis and Tom Baker. These three artists make art that engage in storytelling and take the viewer on a journey into the mind of the maker. Allegra Marquart teaches printmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and her works in glass and paper mines the fairy tale for both content and imagery. Washington Glass School Director Michael Janis leads a guided tour of the interpretations and impressions he finds in the Tarot fortune telling system. Professor Tom Baker of Monmouth University opens the door to both his conscious and unconscious thoughts as they take the form of his print work of unlikely images ranging from kitchen mixers to rockets.

Executed in both glass and various print media, these works engage the viewer in investigation.

To Tell the Tale

September 17 through November 7, 2009

Emerson Gallery

McLean Project for the Arts

1234 Ingleside Avenue

McLean, VA 22101

Opening Reception Thursday, September 17, 2009, 7 PM – 9 PM

07 September 2009

Sneak Peek at Novie Trump's Solo Show at MPA

The Washington Glass School took a sneak peek at next door neighbor and superstar ceramic artist Novie Trump's work as she prepares for a solo show at McLean Project for the Arts (MPA). Her show features some stunning complex installations of ceramic elements and reliquaries.
He new sculptures draw on Novie's training in classical archeology and interest in ancient myths and tales - Novie's ceramics have an undertone and the patina of classical antiquity. Themes of finding direction, of searching for home and community are integrated into each of the works in her show.

Uncharted Sky: Sculpture by Novie Trump
SEPT 17 - NOV 7, 2009
McLean Community Center
1234 Ingleside Avenue
McLean, Virginia 22101
Opening Reception
SEP 17, 7 - 9 PM

Click HERE to see Novie Trump's website

Click HERE to jump to the Novie's Blog

05 September 2009

Stephen Procter Fellowship offering $4,200 travel stipend for 2010 Canberra artists in residence

Stephen Procter, Across the Threshold.

The Stephen Procter Fellowship was established in 2001 in memory of Stephen Procter, Head of the Glass Workshop at The Australian National University 1993–2000. The aim of the Fellowship is to assist Australian and international artists working in glass to work and study abroad.

Each year the Fellowship provides $5,000 AUD (approximately $4,200 US) to assist an artist to travel overseas, helping them to explore working or educational opportunities. In 2010 this award will be made available for an International artist to travel to Australia to be a resident in the Glass Workshop at the School of Art, Canberra. The fellowship will take place in 2010.

Applications must be postmarked by October 31, 2009, and the award will be announced on November 27, 2009.

Gordon Bull
Head of School
School of Art, Australian National University
Childers Street, Acton, ACT

Guidelines for the 2010 Stephen Procter Fellowship

For International artist:

  • The Fellowship will preferably take place during the teaching period of 2010 (our semesters run late Feb through May and late July through to October). We may be able to accommodate a different schedule upon specific requests.
  • The residency period is expected to be between 4–6 weeks.
    • The Fellowship will assist travel to Australia for a residency within the Glass Workshop at the Australian National University in Canberra. This residency aims to support the development of a body of work or a research project.
    • The residency in the Glass Workshop must partly take place during the academic teaching period. The Fellow will be expected to have direct interaction with students through workshops and/or seminars/critiques/tutorials and slide presentations. We recommend that the applicants describe how they would like to interact with the Glass Workshop’s students in their proposal.
    • Travel arrangements will also be encouraged to visit other Australian glass programs whenever possible.
      • The Fellow will be provided with on-campus accommodation, studio space and scheduled use of equipment to carry out their work. Limited supplies will be provided; additional materials can be drawn against the fellowship allocation.
      • Applicants should be practising artists seeking time to develop their own work, research or experiment around a specific project.
      • The successful applicant will be selected based on artistic merit and their proposal. Please also include a small amount of information describing how you will work/interact with the students while you undertake your residency.

      For more information, please email: richard.whiteley@anu.edu.au

    For more information about the ANU Glass Center click HERE

02 September 2009

The Death of Craft - Whodunnit?

Craft committed suicide, but it was under the influence of art.

The victim pulled the trigger on itself, detective Garth Clark says, but it was under the influence of Art.

That’s Art, no last name, sometimes known as Fine Art. And though the corpse keeps getting tricked out for public events like the stiff in the movie comedy Weekend at Bernie’s, the actual time of death was, oh, somewhere around 1995.

Garth Clark

This was the premise of a fantastic and provocative lecture that was held at Portland's Museum of Contemporary Craft last October titled "How Envy Killed the Craft – An Autopsy in 2 parts", given by Garth Clark - a leading international writer on modern and contemporary crafts today. In the talk Clark dryly assessed the current state of American Craft, and conducted an examination of how aesthetics, economics and art-envy have "killed" this 20th century movement. The talk is available online as a podcast from the museum - the details are at the end of this posting.

What is this art envy? Good question.

Surely it has something to do with money. Clark quoted one excellent potter of his acquaintance who says he and his friends have a word for potters who make a living entirely from their craft. It’s unicorns, “because we’ve never seen one.”

And surely it has something to do with reputation, with being taken seriously. Artists are simply thought of more highly, as more creative beings, more intellectual, and therefore more important (and, let’s underscore, more worthy of high prices in exchange for their work).

Perhaps it has something to do with escaping an eternal past. “Craft has been overdosing on nostalgia,” Clark averred. “This is craft’s Achilles heel.” That’s not surprising, he added, since the modern movement (which he stretches back 150 years, a very long time for a movement of any sort) was born as a revival, and thus looking backwards from its beginning.

So, he said, somewhere around 1980 craftmakers simply started referring to what they did as art. Museums and other organizations began to drop the word “craft” from their names — sort of like snipping their horse-thieving uncle from the family tree. For a few genuine artists who were trapped by their association with craft — people like Jun Kaneko and Robert Arneson – it was an escape with just cause. For others, it was wishful thinking. “Craft was strongly and sometimes pretentiously influenced by fine art,” Clark said, “but it did not cross the line to become fine art.”

What did Clark mean by “craft,” anyway? One object-maker drew applause when she commented that, when she’s in the studio, she doesn’t even think about whether she’s making art or craft, she just thinks about what she’s working on. And there was some sentiment that Clark was making a fuss about something that was really just about words and categories, things that come after the fact. “Everything he’s saying is coming from a gallery owner’s point of view,” one member of the audience said.

And there might be some truth to that. Still, Clark insisted that categories are vital, and they are real. “Ultimately there is something called craft and there is something called art,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

What, then, is the difference? When it came right down to it, Clark had a tough time describing exactly what craft is. And in a sense, he blamed that on craftmakers, because they themselves had abandoned the word. After that, he said, “It was almost impossible to write honestly about a field that pretended to be something else.”

And craft’s stress on physicality, Clark said, is “part of its problem as art goes to multimedia, using all sorts of things.” In other words, while craft is reaching toward art, art is reaching toward craft — toward an acceptance of all sorts of materials as viable raw material for the making of fine art.

Then again, he says, fine art’s embrace of traditional craft materials has more to do with “postmodernism’s promiscuity” — hardly a marriage of minds. And, he pointed out, in the mid-20th century fine art underwent a more than equal and opposite reaction, “away from craft-based values” and toward conceptualism — a conspicuously idea-driven form of art (even if the ideas are sometimes half-baked) that gets big media play even as it often rejects the entire concept of craftsmanship as old-fashioned and irrelevant. No wonder crafters feel a little loss of self-esteem.

Still, the question remains: What do we mean when we say “craft”? Maybe it’s a little like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s 1964 dictum on pornography: “I know it when I see it.” The borders are fuzzy, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

One man in the audience last night asked Clark whether we were using “craft” as a noun when we should be using it as a verb. Maybe so.

Either way, there’s something physical about the thing. Craft is at its best when it is dealing with sensuality,” Clark said. “… (I)t grabs you by the throat and just thrills you.”

So maybe the more interesting question is, What is the relationship between art and craft? Does art require craft? If not, has the art world suffered for its loss? Clark says fine art doesn’t need craft. You can make great art without craft, he said, but you can’t make great craft without great skill. This is a far more significant question than many people in the art world will admit. For all of its history, from cave paintings on, art and craftsmanship have been intertwined. At what cost are they separated, if indeed they are?

For the 2-part podcast click HERE and scroll down to 10.16.2008 CraftPerspectives Lecture Garth Clark (Part 1 & 2)