"Craft for a Modern World" is how the Renwick Gallery, one of the Smithsonian Museums, describes its collection. This was probably my favorite museum in Washington. Every object in the museum is unique and handmade, and each one begs the question, "What is the difference between art and craft?"
I've often wondered where to draw the line. If there is one, it seems to me to be incredibly thin and extremely wiggly. I often hear people refer to beautiful things like a hand blown glass vase or an exquisitely woven basket as 'just' "crafts". Yet when we study art history, we study things like this:
Silver-gilt rhyton for libations or drinking, Greco-Parthian Hellenistic 2nd century BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Neo-Assyrian Amethyst Vase, c. 8th century BCE
Do we now regard these as 'art', because they're no longer being used as utilitarian objects? If we put flowers in the vase, would it then be 'craft'? So what qualifies as art, as opposed to craft, and what are the criteria for determining which is which?
I can't give you a definitive answer to this question, but perhaps some food for thought.
This one, I believe, was modeled after the architecture of the historical Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio!
Bottom: Robert Ebendorf, Lost Soul, Found Spirit. found materials and metal
I wasn't able to find information on this, but I think it's very cool. I know, I know, I should have photographed the identification tags in the gallery.
Anna Von Mertens, 2:45 am Until Sunrise on Tet, the Lunar New Year, January 31, 1968, U.S. Embassy, Saigon, Vietnam, (Looking North), 2006, cotton
Monopoly, 2007, by Kristen Morgin, unfired clay and paint
Steven Montgomery, Static Fuel, earthenware and oil paint
John McQueen, burdock burrs and apple wood
Albert Paley, Portal Gates, 1974, steel, brass, copper, bronze
Dan Webb, cut, flamed, spalted, 2013, maple
Karen Lamonte, Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery, 2009, glass
Gullah Fanner Basket, Lunette Youson
Andy Paiko, Spinning Wheel, glass, cocoboho, steel, brass, leather
While this lovely spinning wheel certainly can't spin any thread, I enjoy looking at it for its aesthetic properties. But then, I also enjoy looking at this very functional one:
antique spinning wheel
Barbara Lee Smith, Lay Inlet, synthetic fabrics, acrylic paint, silk pigments
I fell totally in love with this piece. While it is made of fabric, a traditionally functional material, it wasn't made to be worn or to cover anyone's bed.
I don't see how anyone could look at stained glass as a craft, do you?
Glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly
I'm not sure I can shed any light on the "art or craft" question, but here's a video that explains how this division came about.
So, what do you think? Is there a difference between art and craft? Or is the line just too difficult to draw? I'd love to hear any wisdom, insights, questions, or thoughts you might have!