I’ve begun my yearly I’m-done-with-school-nervous-energy-eventually-its-going-to-be-cold-again-even-though-right-now-its-like-the-surface-of-the-sun knitting frenzy. Its gotten me thinking about how things that are traditionally thought of as crafts are in a completely different category than “arts”. In both the communal categorization and within the arts structure, itself. (fine arts vs. knitting)
Fine arts is kind of dominated by either 100 to 500 plus year-old paintings or diamond encrusted skulls (thank you Damien Hirst for bastardizing contemporary art “look! I told you I could make money in art!” ahem…). By that I mean, fine arts has kind of a narrow definition and has always been rather exclusive and as such is more “valuable” and highly thought-of, which is fine. I enjoy old paintings and contemporary conceptual art (not Damien Hirst or David Hockney though. thank-you-very-much Mr. Hockney for your STUPID theory on the use of mirrors by Jan van Eyck, which to be fair, I chose to write my 20 page paper on). As (another) side note, there is an exhibition i want to go to for the main purpose of seeing a bag of water between two rocks.
My argument is more in the defense of crafts as a fine art form in and of itself. While I tend to stick to knitting one sock, getting bored, and then knitting 4 scarves in a row, there are some more advanced knitters who do things such as knit storming or knit bombing. It is akin to grafitti, which has snuck up on the art world and innocent commuters in London. (I’m referring to Banksy) There are also those that make monsters or use embroidery as their medium (one of the more elusive crafts maybe due to the fact that embroidery thread is so incredibly irritating, maybe that’s a personal issue.) I find this art to be just as or, in some cases, more relevant than contemporary fine art and I’m fascinated by the (sorry for the pun) craftsmanship within it.
Maybe the best thing about crafting vs. fine art is that in most cases you can USE it, TOUCH it, or WEAR it. It has a defined, tangible purpose. Come winter, I’ll be warm. The practical purpose of such crafts, traditionally done in the home, by women, belies their status in society. Needle crafts have traditionally been just that: traditional, practical, and homely. No one put them in museums because they were using them to keep warm, because they were making them for their friend as a winter gift, because they needed a sweater for winter.And if you buy into feminist theory, when work within the home became seen as “free” work, undervalued as necessary or as work, maybe these crafts lost their value as well. The artist as artisan lost his or her last hand-hold. The artisan is now a blue-collar worker, a cat-lady, a mother.
There are people that argue against this stereotype (Stitch and Bitch groups, Male knitters, etc.), but what makes art now? What differentiates it from a “craft” in its modern sense? What differentiates Fine Art from a creative hand-knit sweater? Is art defined by its purposelessness?
(Any one of those things could and probably will in the future be their own posts, this is kind of a vomit of my internet browsing of the past few days. Expect a better post soon. )