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Is Our View of What’s Art, Skewed?

January 14, 2010

A person said to me that they “wished” they could “do art”, then said “I only sew and do mosaics”. I was both surprised, and saddened that in this day and age there still were people who obviously have down-graded the media she used for creating art. 

It was time to get on my soapbox for a while and cry: “Is Our View of What’s Art,  Skewed??” 

When did art become defined, or classified?  Who developed the definitions, or classifications?

To answer the last question, first [because its easy]: MEN.  When Europe had its “guilds” [men’s clubs] that pooled together to make, teach/apprentice skills [to other men], and sell their collective works…the art was art, the artists were classified as “artisans”. 

There were, as far as I know no “guilds” for women, although they worked next to their fathers. brothers and husbands.  They were NOT considered “artisans”.  Women did a lot of tapestries and other woven arts, along with making of clothing for everyone in  the family [while cleaning, cooking and making babies].

Painters, sculptors, architects, wood-workers, potters [and etc], were not separated when the guilds began.  But, in the Renaissance the concept of “higher” arts was fueled by those painters/sculptors/architects did not want others to group them with the potters [makers of “ceramics” such as vases and bowls], leather-workers and weavers.  In this period is really when credit was given to each artist who placed their name with the items created.  Hence, it appeared that achieving a high amount of distinction was the motivator. Personally, I think they got a bit full of themselves.

My answer to the first question? YES!!  Now that women are also recognized as artists, art [although not always “soft arts” like quilting] produced by women of the Medieval and Renaissance Periods are now recognized as art.  Now the work of early female artists can be found in art history books.  The Bayeux Tapestry is a fine example of Medieval work!  In more modern times, Faith Ringgold’s “soft arts” are quilts and dolls. 

There are ways to decide if your work is “original” art or not.  A copy from a pattern [which would not technically be “original”] or designed/created from the artist’s imagination [which would be “original”].  Now, when is a copy from a pattern “original”?  I will use the criteria given to my master’s class on that very subject: when an art work has undergone some modification by an artist.  Otherwise, they would have to state “after so-and-so” on the work. 

It would be arrogant of me to think my paintings are art, but the quilts made by mother were not.  To answer the question, yes…for the general populous it is!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Celeste permalink
    January 14, 2010 10:55 pm

    Thanks for the “artist” status! : )

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