Whatever the question, the answer is glass

I've been chewing over a snippet from Jorunn Veiteberg's book 'Craft in Transition.  She reflects that in the discussions about whether Craft can be Fine Art, the thing that perhaps puts the most distance between those who begin from a Craft postition from those who begin from a Fine Art postition is the craftspersons use of one medium.  In Art history terms this would place Crafts with 'medium-specific modernism' (p34), which is considered in fine art to be rather old hat. In other words, the accusation is that while fine artists take their ideas and questions and then choose the right medium (or media) in which to express those ideas, craftspeople explore ideas and questions either that spring from the medium they have already chosen, or they only ask questions when the answer can be expressed in that medium.  So for glass artists, whatever the question, the answer is glass. 
I'm not sure what I think of this.  It's true in one sense, although there are glass artists out there - Keith Cummings is one - who, over many years, found glass expressed what they wanted to say most eloquently.  Certainly Swathe 2, my most recent work, springs from the properties of a medium and how it appeals to me.  Fair cop.  Not sure that this makes it bad work though.  Glass artists don't always help themselves though.  They can seem to want to be taken as equals in the art world, when they aren't really willing to step outside the glass world anyway.  I find echoes of this in Crafts magazine today when Andrew Guest rather grumpily complains about 'The Glass Delusion' show at the National Glass Centre (NGC), that it's all very well, but it's just about the NGC "positioning themselves towards the contemporary art end of the cultural spectrum" (p55, Crafts July/August).  His complaint seems to be that none of the works are about glass, or by glass artists, even though the work apparently (I haven't seen the show) uses glass to explore the attempts by humans to reconcile the physical and mental worlds.  It sounds rather impressive, and quite cohesive as a concept:  looking at how artists use the properties of glass to express the chasm between the mental and physical and the way they blur together. 

I need to know.  Is my work essentially bad work (fine art-wise) because it explores ideas, but is dominated by one medium?   How does it sit in the Craft world? Do I care very much either way? Something to unpick.

Jumpt to images of Swathe on my website.
Image: Swathe 3 - new work.


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