So this is a bit of a rant.

Beth Cavener Stichter is a phenomenal artist who just received a Fellowship grant from Artist Trust, a Washington state organization that supports the arts.

She won in the Craft category, and I’m thinking “craft?!?!” Here are two examples of her work:slideshow1


These are life-size, by the way, and from Beth’s current show in New York (info here). I want to stress: Beth is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Her work is exquisite, deeply evocative and she impressively pushes it further with each show. She also seems like a kind and funny person (we haven’t met). She deserves every accolade possible.

Likewise, Artist Trust is a great organization: responsive, artist focused, truly helpful. They even gave me a Project grant several years back (no categories for that one).

But still, Craft??? How is this not Visual Art (another category)?

Sour grapes? I did apply for this Fellowship too and didn’t get it – not tragic. Should I apply in the future under Traditional or Folk Art instead of Craft? What is the thread connecting my work and her work – clay? only clay? kilns? Where does Craft end as a category? Does the fact that she makes it herself turn it into Craft?

What difference does it make? I think it makes a difference because when craft museums, councils, and awards support visual art in craft media there becomes no place for … what? I was going to say craft, but that word now means something else. There becomes no place for ye olde craft? Gosh darn craft?

This semantic tension is symptomatic of a cultural tension. When the Bellevue (Wa) Art Museum folded and was re-born as a craft museum they changed the name to the Bellevue Arts Museum. Isn’t that nice and inclusive? It’s like saying you’re Danish when you’re really from Greenland.

Our culture, even sensitive and aware segments of our culture, still does not know how to respond to handmade objects, least of all utilitarian ones. That anything whatever made out of clay, when it is actually made by the person whose name is on it, is designated craft is simply shortsighted.

Okay, time to make more, um…pottery.

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