Is craft art? Where has the current DIY (do-it-yourself) movement come from and what keeps these individuals motivated? What are artists creating using craft processes? These are some of the larger questions addressed by the DIY Forum panel at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on September 30th. This forum was hosted in conjunction with a yarn bombing of the State and Johnson Street bus shelter sponsored by the Design Gallery at UW-Madison. The panel consisted of Beverly Gordon of the Design Studies department and fiber artists Jeffrey Bleem and Lisa Whiting with artist Jennifer Angus moderating. Each panelist gave a quick 10 minute lecture regarding either the history of the DIY movement or their respective art projects. This forum functioned as a space where the public could listen to professionals’ and insiders’ opinions on the subject of craft and the DIY movement.

Of all the issues brought up throughout the course of the forum, perhaps the most contentious one and the focus of the Handmade Meaning exhibition, was whether or not craft is a form of art. While the subject was only touched upon briefly by the fiber artists present, there did appear to be a very strong stance that while they were using craft processes, what they were creating was art. In particular, Lisa Whiting declared that the term craft is a verb, meaning that it is how an object was made and not what is made. While this is certainly a valid point, it does seem to be, in my opinion, reinforcing the notion that craft cannot be art. Rather than using the word craft as a noun, using it simply as a verb seems to make the object less worthy of discussion and reflection than if it was termed art. I do not mean to denounce her statement entirely, for the term ‘craft’ can certainly be used as a verb, but if we are to challenge the accepted notion that art is created only by those who are deemed artists according to a popular notion than this term has to be credited more validity, more credibility. Indeed, by denying the word a strong stance as a form of art accepted by all we are discrediting those who use such processes in making their art, their craft pieces. We must not be afraid to term these objects as craft objects and treat them just like we would art objects. Only when we use the terms ‘craft’ and ‘art’ interchangeably will craft loose it’s negative connotation and craft objects can rise to the level of ‘high art’.

Historically, the term craft has been used to discount or to devalue objects made by the lay individual using certain techniques, no matter how strikingly beautiful and ornate the object is and how skillfully it was executed. It is my hope that with this exhibition we can get beyond this word traditionally used for objects created by women or individuals not deemed “artists”, and that the community at large will come to understand and appreciate these works of art for their impact not only on the lives of those who created the objects, but how these objects have come to influence the work of artists today.

–Posted by Breanna Norton.

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