Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What is Art?

A friend has asked me if I consider my knitting to be Art. Thanks for asking,Nancy! I guess Bob asked the question first. Going to Nancy's blog, she's also wondered if a blog could be art. I suppose it could, but I would venture to say that blogging is really more keeping track of what the art is - a diary or journal of sorts - not the art itself.

So - what is art? And what is craft? And what is the difference between art and craft? I consider knitting to be sometime art and sometimes craft. What makes the difference? I don't really know! There is an art to knitting well. The craft part is really more the technical side of knitting, and the artistry comes in color choice, fiber choice, design of the pieces. Knitting often produces a practical, useful item, so that leans me more towards the craft side . . . but then again, even very useful items can be artistically done, and thereby I would consider them to be art.

I've spent a good bit of my life being creative. I've done theater, sewing, quilting, puppetry, singing, played musical instruments, made toys, written fiction and poetry and even some non-fiction . . . which of those creations of mine are art? Any? All? None?

You can see that I'm still not clear on this topic! Bob makes a good point in saying that something can be Bad Art, too - so one can say "ok, if you say that's art, I'll agree that it's art, but I don't believe it is quality." That's a fair assessment.

So - here's my official (for now) statement: If the creator or anyone else experiencing the piece feels that it is Art, it is, indeed Art. If, however, you try to make me say it's all Good Art, I'll not give you the pleasure! I reserve my right to declare what I like and what I don't!

OK - knitting update: 1st pic in the blog is my Clapotis, or maybe it's really a Clapotis! Either way, it's mine and it's being knit of Silky Wool. It has a lovely hand, and it really does flow like water as it drapes. I have a few more inches to add before I start the decreases . . . I want it to be more a shawl than a scarf, so I want to be sure it wraps around my round little self sufficiently.

2nd pic is a child's sweater vest I've knit for Warm Woolies as a donation. I've knit it from Lamb's Pride Bulky - 85% wool, 15% mohair. It'll be nice and warm for some child. I intended to use all stash yarn, but then I got a pattern going (Fibonacci Sequence from bottom to top) and wanted to finish it that way. I've bought plenty more of the same kind of yarn (various colors) to make more things for this group. The vest was a quick knit, so don't be surprised to see more! Cast on 98 stitches and go til you feel it looks right.

Is this art? What do you think?


Kristen said...

cute vest!!! :)

Bob Hale said...

That's gone even further than my definition.
I'll repost it at wordcraft though with Richard missing at the moment it won't get the response it might. :)

Kalleh said...

Oh crap. I just wrote the longest, most astute (;) comment, but lost the whole blankety blank thing. What causes that?

Basically, I said that I vehemently disagree (respectfully of course) with you, CW, about the definition of art. It really can't be that broad or the word becomes worthless. If a drunk sees dog poop and calls it art, is it art then? I think Bob's definition is too broad, and yours surpasses it.

But what is art then? It has to be creatively designed so that the viewer feels emotion or warmth (that's not measureable!). While one person might see it as "bad" art, everyone can't. There have to be those who like it, want to exhibit it, and want to buy it. Thus, "Unmade Bed" indeed is art, no matter what Richard says.

CW, you are most definitely a creative artist. Your knitting and children's stories and dramatics personify art. Similarly, Bob's beautiful poems really move me, and others, and are art. My husband, whether you realize it or not, is an amazing poet. He just is too modest. OEDILF? That's more iffy. Some of those limericks are art; others aren't. A pure definitional limerick, with no cleverness, to me isn't art. Probably many of mine fall into that "isn't art" category, as do many of Richard's. A dictionary in no way is art, at least in my opinion. Some of my limericks and DDs, though? Yeah, they might be art, albeit anemic art.

So there you have it. Bottom line? Probably Bob's definition is most like mine, though it's too broad. That sneezing Blog is not art. Maybe art is a concept, but not really definable. Maybe it's defined differently, depending on the person viewing it.

I am not an artist, that's for sure. I've learned over the years to realize that we call can't be everything, and I accept that.

[P.S. My first comment was so much better!]

Kalleh said...

As usual, I made an error in that comment. In the second to the last line, it's "all," not "call."

Cycho Librarian said...

Hanging on the wall in my office is a piece of calligraphy from an artist friend of mine:

"In white society it is the exceptional and abnormal person that becomes an artist. The artist is usually associated with marginality and nonconformity with regard to the mainstream of society. From this marginal position the artist dedicates himself almost solely to his artistic creations. The nonartist among the Navajo is a rarity. Moreover, Navajo artists integrate their artistic endeavors into their other activities. Living is not a way of art for them, but art is a way of living."

Gary Witherspoon. "Beautifying the World through Art" from Language and Art in the Navajo Universe (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1977).

Cycho Librarian said...

Link to the whole article here.

Cat said...

Hmmm - great comments, everyone - keep 'em coming! I think this is the most comments I've gotten, to date, on any one blog entry! Woohoo!

I like Nick's point about living in an artful way - art being a way of living rather than life being an art. It's a lovely goal to consider.

That's another deep subject - what kinds of things do you consider those "Big Hairy Audacious Goals" for your life? Living artistically? Being generous and kind? Making a difference for the betterment of the world around you?

Kalleh said...

In "white society?" That seems a little divisive.

I don't think artists usually are "associated with marginality and nonconformity." Sometimes they are; sometimes they aren't. It depends. That's why the word "art" is so difficult to define. I suppose some words just can't be adequately defined, and this is one of them.

Cycho Librarian said...

It's not meant to be divisive. He's just drawing a comparison between western/European/"white" culture and the Navajo culture.

Amanda said...

This is such a tough debate! There is certainly not a clear line! But many so-called crafts are without a doubt art, in my opinion. My favorite kind of 'art' is the art of everyday --like quilts or embroidery...which historically has fallen into the craft category, however many times these items are most certainly ART!