- Yori Seeger
In the world of fine art, craft has become a four-letter word; a curse; a signifier; a stigma of low work. Craft is the bastard child of the glue gun and the abused mistress of macaroni. Craft is glitter and child’s play. Craft is the enemy of fine art and should be cast out with the glitter, lest it infects everything it touches with glistening degeneracy.
In 2003 the California College of Arts and Crafts was so ashamed of their association to craft that they legally changed their name to escape the glue gun and macaroni stigma. They left their heritage name to become the California College of the Arts. And now, I say shame.
Shame on all of us who left craft behind to study the transcendental application of art without skill development. Now is the time to ask what is craft? What does it mean to have craftsmanship (in an attempt to be inclusive, I should say that craftspersonship is not yet a word)? And here is the big question—What is art without craft? The definition of craft is skill in an occupation or trade requiring skill with the hands. So, I repeat, shame on the art world for abandoning the very principle of demanding skill to create art. Even Ripley may not believe this, but there exist two terms which help me illustrate the fall of grace in our educational programming for the arts. The first is Un-schooling, the second is De-skilling. Yes, it is true, entire movements have been created to make us stupider.
Before galleries, critics and museums cast me into Dante’s sixth ring of Hell, I will state that I believe in time and place wherein students should question and even rebel the teachings of the past. In bold statement I suggest that this rebellion only has merit after knowledge is passed from teacher to student, and is fully mastered. Without this clause rebellion is degenerative and becomes the master of its own demise. Such is the case where art has bastardized craftsmanship and cut off its nose to spite its face. This is a soap box I can preach from for a time longer than most audience have patience, so at this point I respect your time and conclude.
I have long stated that art is a language. The more one studies the systems and craft of a language the better they are in performing and delivering said language. Math is a prime example, for I am sure that all my readers will agree that only after years of study can a mathematician faithfully argue and present proofs against historical methods. If you are a math student, try handing in a work wherein you have designed your own numbering system and comprised arithmetic that only you have the key to use. Why is art any different? Too often I find that schooling does not prepare an artist to communicate and use the language of art. Those students who strive for more than the system provides often spend so much time developing their own voice that they are often in need of explaining their work to anyone outside their own doorstep.
Art remains the language to explore and explain the ethereal but this is no excuse to abandon craft, un-school, or de-skill the practitioner. Indeed I suggest the opposite. The school of Visual Philosophy is dedicated to re-skilling and instituting Craftspersonship into our methods and practice of speaking the impossible language of art. Although, I suggest that art is probably the first of human language. So my final words of advice are these-Take the time to learn the craft behind the language of art because I promise it will improve your ability to tell the story.
Dadaism is proof positive that art needs structure to fulfill it requirements as a language. Because, let’s face it, no one sober understood or enjoyed the Dadaists. Without the structure of skill, development and craft, art is an endangered language.