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How We Define Craft PDF Print E-mail
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 03 September 2002 18:00
More than 100 artists’ works in ceramics, fibers, glass, metals, wood, and mixed media explore the boundaries between art and craft in a massive exhibit at the Davenport Museum of Art. Defining Craft 1: Collecting for the New Millennium is on display through November 3 and has such luminaries in the art world as Gehry, Chihuly, Lichtenstein, Castle Sherman, and Paley. This exhibit was organized by the American Craft Museum in New York. Also on view in the Wiese Auditorium (don’t look for any signs pointing the way) is a smaller companion exhibit featuring 10 Quad Cities artists and their contemporary craft-like art objects. These artists are Caroline England, Heather Eslick, Mark Fowler, Akiko Koiso, Rob Lipnick, Megan Quinn, Lori Roderick, Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, Steve Sinner, and David Zahn. What looks to be exciting programming around this exhibit is still in store, including an open-house studio at which Fowler, Quinn, and Roderick will explore how art objects are crafted (September 21); a lecture by Chicago-based critic Polly Ullrich (September 22); a panel discussion that includes jewelry and metalsmithing masters Chughi Choo and Kee-ho Yuen from the University of Iowa (October 3); and a fashion show by area high-school students inspired by works in the exhibit (October 24). Another feature of this exhibit is the Community Voices component on many of the artworks’ labels. Area art lovers and artists alike have been invited to write their comments about the works that they most admire in the show. Below are a handful of those voices. A full-length review of the show by Mike LoGuidice can be found here.

Junco Sato Pollack, Cascade II, 2001
silk, gold & silver leaf; Collection of the American Craft Museum

This work represents Ma’at, a word the ancient Egyptians used to describe the universal order of things. I see it in the strength and fragility of the piece, the opacity and translucency, the dark and light - all perfectly ordered in these panels. The gold-squared grids might be thought of as the richness of life, while the veiled sections suggest adversity, but with hope because the squares are still visible beneath.

There is great energy in this piece. (The square is such a powerful shape.) I love the silk. (I want to wear it.) The iridescence is breathtaking. (I would hang it in a window and watch the sun make it shimmer like dragonfly wings.) And I love brown. (Like the coffee at the Café du Monde.)

– Mimzi Haut, artist and owner, Moline Art Gallery

Peter VoulkousArtist, Cross, 1959
stoneware, lowfire glazes; Collection of the American Craft Museum

Wow! I’ve always loved archetypal images, and this is an archetypal image. Religious, expressive, in-your-face, and splashed with a clash of color. This ain’t your father’s stoneware. This is a cross between Fred and Franz (Flintstone and Kline).

It has a human stance with its hands out, beckoning and open. It says, “I am what I am.” Rough and elegant, like Clark Gable in worn-out blue jeans - a contrast, a juxtaposition. What about the bright colors - orange, greenish, purple, and black? What about the seams that show? Why aren’t they smooth?

Peter was challenging to the end, making work that one would describe as ugly and beautiful in the same sentence. Voulkos is still the King of Ceramics, better than anyone at being rough and tough, sensitive, honest, alive and now … gone.

– Rob Lipnick

Roland Simonds, Lumalight - Generation One Lamp, 1999
corrugated paper, plastic, electrical wire; Collection of the American Craft Museum

These freestanding light columns evidence an intuitive understanding of the materials the artist elected to use. The design is fresh, creative, and well-executed.

If the observer understands that the material started with a flat sheet of corrugated paper that was cut with a sharp instrument and then bent to its final shape, one will appreciate the simplicity of the design.

Furthermore, the columns can be disassembled, laid flat, and rolled up for shipping. All in all, these objects are excellent examples of Industrial Design to the fullest extent.

– Italo J. Milani

Robert Arneson, Self Portrait of the Artist Losing His Marbles, 1965
earthenware, luster glaze, marbles; Collection of the American Craft Museum

I love this Robert Arneson piece because it’s so funny and masterful at the same time. As I am a ceramist, I can sympathize with Arneson over the crack in the front of this piece. Leave it to him to turn it into a groove for his falling marbles!

I think of Arneson as the Picasso of figurative sculpture. He is so facile with imitation (note the beautifully sculpted chunky zipper) and also allows himself to be casual about some features (the ears for instance). He seems to have had some fun with the glazed surface, too. He allows himself such liberty with his copious use of gold luster! The texture of the crackly glaze on the skin seems to suggest the frustration to which the title of the piece alludes.

– Megan Quinn, potter and Augustana College faculty member

Jack Earl, Dogs are nice... , 1979
earthenware, glazes

Dogs are nice ... ha, not this one!

Well, on closer inspection I think I may be related to his owner. You know the one. He’s somebody’s uncle, the guy who came to grandma’s funeral in sans-a-belt pants with shoes his long-dead wife bought him for their granddaughter’s wedding (black faux leather and splitting their seams). As a matter of fact, he might have been at my wedding, warts and all, up close to the dance floor watching my college roommates dance their shoulder straps loose. He didn’t smell quite so rank back then, but then his wife was alive and his daughter hadn’t moved away with her second husband. Then he had someone to match the green-and-gold plaid sport coat with his pants (although he always favored white athletic socks with everything).

Doesn’t he remind you of an old dog you know?

– Lori Roderick

Gertrud & Otto Natzler, Untitled
earthenware, glazes

This ceramic bowl is the collaboration of the husband-and-wife team of Gertrud and Otto Natzler. Contrary to what one might think, she threw and he glazed, thereby creating single works of art from two bodies.

Her exquisitely delicate, incredibly thin-walled vessels thrown into sizable classic shapes were - and still may be - the best for their time. His glazes, evident here as “crater glaze,” were avant-garde, and together the total value of their work is far greater than the sum of its parts. They took pottery to a higher level of appreciation.

– Herb Tyler

Lesley Haas, Toe Shoes, 1999
vegetable papyrus, red beet, satin ribbon; Collection of the American Craft Museum

Out of all the wonderful works in this exhibition, these beautiful slippers captivated me. In these gossamer shoes, the image of someone’s long-forgotten childhood haunted me. Suspended inside their glass casing from satin ribbons, they seemed so delicate and yet sublime in their simplicity.

I imagined the little nymph who might have donned these exquisite dancing slippers. He or she would have been as iridescent and fairy-like as the earthen elements that compose these precious remnants. After studying them for some time, I could see the repetition of a pattern of little translucent circles overlapping more little circles, then touched with a misty tint of gold that in a peculiar way resembled tiny little eyes peeping out of these fragile discs. I was reminded of a discarded snakeskin where the snake had outgrown and shed his beautiful lining. These slippers are receptacles for the vision of the viewer making them truly remarkable.

– Kathy Van Hyfte, local artist
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