What is: Art, Craft, or Kitsch

What is Art?  Is or can pottery or ceramics be Art?  Do we care?

Well certainly a lot of people care.  I am not really one of them.  While walking my dog, however; I have had conversations with myself about what art, craft and kitsch are. 

The Classical/Traditional definition:

  • a painting by someone you do not know personally that is framed, and sells for a lot of money is Art
  • Irregardless of what a coffee cup looks like, it is a craft
  • A small ceramic salt shaker that looks like a chicken and was made in Taiwan is Kitsch.

My etherial and sort of loose thoughts on Art:

I like the thought that art is communication.  It does not matter if what we are ‘hearing’ is not what the artist meant; nor, if you cannot articulate what the piece is saying to you, or even if you don’t really understand what is being communicated.  Likewise, if something does not communicate anything to you, I think you can say that is not art; at least for you.   Google gives Madeleine L’Engle credit for stating that art is a form of communication.  I have not read the context of how she made that quote, to know if I am using the same way as she.  But for me, what is being communicated to the beholder does not have to be the intention of the artist.  

I think artists such as Duchamp (bicycle wheel https://www.moma.org/collection/works/81631and  shovel https://www.moma.org/collection/works/105050) and Andy Warhol actually made art that would contradict the “experts of the day” definition of art.  

In my conversation with myself I will also argue that traffic signs communicate very well.  But most  I wouldn’t consider art.  So I would not try to give a definition of art for the world, only sort of a working definition for myself.

For me as an artist:

I consider myself making art when I am being creative

What is craft?  For me, craft is the expertise; the technical aspect; of making art.  In regards to clay, that would include how to use a wheel, how to make and apply glazes, how to fire ceramics etc.

Kitsch:  My personal idea of “kitsch” is something made in quantity that is “cutsy”.  

Based on my definitions, When I am doing repetitive work: i.e. making the same cup or bowl on the wheel over and over, that feels more like I am working on my craft.  But when I make things on the wheel to include in sculpture, that is more art. When I am spraying or dipping a piece in glaze that is craft.  When I am doing a sculpture that is art.   However the lines are fuzzy in some places.  Garden art speaks to me of kitsch.  However my garden fish and owls are one of a kind items and so for me it becomes sort of art with a tongue in cheek.

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