Saturday, January 30, 2010

Craft or art? Who cares?

This is something I used to think about (read: OBSESS about) quite a bit. Is what I'm doing a craft or is it art?

It's something that is thrown around so often that it seems almost pointless to post my new thoughts about it, and I wouldn't, except that this is my blog and I figure, why not?

The modern craft movement ("modern" being translated as "super tolerant and overly inclusive") seems to have embraced the idea that everything handmade is art. God forbid we should offend anyone, from scrapbookers to plastic canvas stitchers, by saying that they're "doing crafts". This would seem to be the same modern thinking that has labeled everyone from kids who look both ways before crossing the street to the firefighters who gave their lives on September 11, 2001, as "heroes".

Why is it that we are so obsessed with overusing words until they no longer hold any meaning? Or of trying not to offend to the point that we label the mundane as incredible, lifting up what is common so that what is truly exceptional is no longer admirable?

Lately, maybe just as I've been going through a lot of personal growth in the past couple of years, in my art and in my personal life, I find myself wondering why it matters so much. Does it matter that what I'm doing might not actually be "art"? Do I need for what I produce to have that label to feel good about what I make? Or am I really wanting it to feel good about myself? I've long connected my obsession with creating to a need within me to prove that I am somehow worthwhile, as though each piece I produce is yet another tangible proof that I deserve the air I breathe. At times, failing at any point in the creative process was so overwhelming to me, I'd enter into something of a depression. It wasn't just sticking something in the wrong place, or breaking a bead, or whatever--it was like a cruel confirmation of what I had always secretly suspected: that I wasn't good enough.

Learning to rise above all of this has been difficult. I'm going to say without shame that without the healing work of Jesus Christ in my life, it wouldn't have been possible. All you people out there groaning right now or clicking the "x" up at the top of your screen, go right ahead. I'm not preaching. I'm saying point blank that without this relationship in my life, I wouldn't have made it. If it were my husband or my friend, I would share the same information in the same tone and with the same motive--just to share.

But, based on my own beliefs, especially that we were all created, and not just some cosmic accident, I can say that my breakthrough came in this thought: that my existence proves my worth. As in, I wouldn't be here unless God wanted me. Not just, "I think, therefore I am," but, "I think, therefore I have value."

So the question of whether or not what I make is craft or art seems to fade away. Maybe art has to do with the intent. If there's a real expression there, as in, the artist trying to say something, then I think it's art. If I'm putting together a scrapbook page, no matter how beautiful it is, or how artistic it may be, I'm not sure it's art. I think art can also be based upon skill. I mean, artists used to work for their entire lives to reach a level of mastery that few of us in the modern age who have learned most of our techniques in a few hours spent browsing Google or Youtube will ever know. What is art? Skill, expression, purpose... Maybe all of these things, and maybe more. I've come to the conclusion that most of what I do is crafts. And that's okay with me. Knowing who I am, and recognizing my own value, has freed me to create without the pressure of always having to make "art" to somehow prove myself. I can make mistakes now, and I even use them.

I don't know if any of this makes sense. But it's maybe something to think about. I think, therefore I have value. That's all the "proof" I need. Now the stuff I make is just stuff I make. And it's fun!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, oh, oh, Kathy.
    Your words make sense to me but the conclusion you come to is dangerous - that is, "I think, therefore I have value."

    I had a severe brain injury some years ago, and "I think, therefore I have value", is not now a sentence that I ever want to see.

    Who or what determines if you are able to think? Is it the result of your ability to carry on a conversation? What about people who are mute? Or paralyzed and unable to talk or write. Or those who are "locked in" following a brain injury.
    I am sure you do not mean to exclude those who are disabled. Nor devalue them. It's just that your sentence brought back memories of some desperate times when I thought I was worthless.

    janeyknitting AT yahoo DOT ca
    (Change caps to symbols and lose the spaces.)