Thursday, December 13, 2007

Weaving and Art

Meg made a comment recently in which she asked two questions. Here is the first question:

"....in your opinion, Peg, what makes a piece of weaving deserving of being in a gallery?"

I am not, absolutely not(!) going to answer the question of defining gallery worthiness, not for weaving, not for any kind of fiber art, not for any kind of so-called traditional fine art! That is a question for gallery owners/operators, or, in the case of juried shows, for the jurors. It matters not a whit whether or not I think a piece is deserving; the only thing that matters is whether these others think a piece is deserving.

And here is her second question:

"...what are we, or you, a weaver, a craftsperson, an artisan, an artist?"

I will try, for myself and myself only, to answer the second question.

I remember when I became engaged. I practiced over and over again what my new name was going to be. It sounded so foreign and yet wonderful. So scary. I have no idea when I finally became comfortable with that new name. I know a marriage certificate didn't make me feel comfortable with it. I know that a wedding ceremony didn't make me feel comfortable with it. However, both did help. Sometime in the course of our marriage, as the two of us lived into the commitment we had made, my name was no longer new. Now it is difficult for me to imagine that I ever had another name.

I remember when I began the struggle to think of myself as a weaver. No certificate marked the change. No ceremony marked the change. Only, finally, the internal commitment to weaving marked the change. But because there were no public vows to make, no public document to sign, the movement towards naming myself as a weaver came much more slowly and with much greater difficulty.

I can say right now that I do not, however, consider myself an artist. On the other hand, I cannot say that I am not struggling to move in that direction.

A painter is a painter. But he is also an artist. A sculptor is a sculptor; he too is an artist. An oil painter is an oil painter, also an artist. I person who works in batik is a craftsman but also an artist. Many quilters are not only quilters but artists. I don't think most people have trouble with all this. I certainly do not.

And there are weavers, as well, who are artists.

Any painter, quilter, sculptor, weaver who is trying to express something of himself, whether beauty, meaning, opinion, has moved beyond being simply a craftsman. He is moving into the world of art. And the longer that person continues the struggle along that path, trying to follow his own voice and not the voices of others, the more what that person creates becomes more recognizable to others as that person's work.

On the other hand, a painter who simply copies the works of others, a quilter who only follows patterns designed by others, a weaver who always reproduces someone else's design, none of these is an artist, none of these is moving along a path which would lead him into the creation of art.

As for my own work, all I know is that this is the kind of path I have chosen to follow. I, once a bashful individual who always did what she was told, who always tried to live out the expectations of others, am now trying to listen to my own voice.

3 comments:

Meg in Nelson said...

"It matters not a whit whether or not I think a piece is deserving; the only thing that matters is whether these others think a piece is deserving." Sounds very practical, but then would you wait to be approached?

"Any painter, quilter, sculptor, weaver who is trying to express something of himself, whether beauty, meaning, opinion, has moved beyond being simply a craftsman." Will you, Peg, know when you've crossed that line?

I'm not disagreeing with anything you say, but these are things I think of from time to time, and like to hear what other weavers think.

Dorothy said...

The idea of going beyond "being simply a craftsman" is absurd to me. As a collector of the work of modern potters, I'd say something goes seriously wrong when they decide they are artists. Their work loses its integrity.

As a weaver, I think the same applies to weaving. When the work needs "an artists statement" to give it meaning, it has lost sense.

On the issue of what deserves to be in a gallery - what has "deserve" got to do with galleries? The purpose of galleries is to show and to sell.

Deciding what is "deserving" is the remit of folk who set criteria (e.g. examiners of juried exhibitions, or for awards) does the work achieve x, y, z... the criteria is based on their philosophy - different people, different criteria, different view of "deserve". That which is considered undeserving may in fact have great merit and value in a different context - be "deserving" elsewhere.

If I had a gallery, I'd select a mix of work I liked, and work I didn't but I knew other people would like. I might apply a theme, I might go for contrasts. If it was my gallery, and it paid its way (if that was necessary) if I liked the way it worked as a gallery then I'd know what was in my gallery was right and fit to be there.

Dorothy said...

Another thought - traditionally weavers would have undergone a 7 year apprenticeship before they were "weavers". I'm at 2 years, and I would say I am an apprentice rather than a weaver!

Looking at Peg's work, to me, you are a weaver. I admire and find inspiration in your work. I think some weavers are what I would call "fine art weavers" but there is no sense to me that this is superior to "weaver", just different.