Crafted Artistry

When you think of art, do you think of the pieces within a museum? Or do you think of the crafts you see on Pinterest?

Even before social media, the question of what makes something art and what makes it a craft has been discussed. Some think art and crafts go hand in hand, while others argue crafting is only the imitation of art.

“One distinction that’s often used is that a crafts person is somebody who follows instructions,” said James Conlon, philosophy professor at Mount Mary University. “Whereas, the artist is somebody who injects a certain amount of creativity and originality into the work.”

Conlon currently teaches Philosophy of Beauty in Art this semester and has discussed this very topic with his students. While he respects differing opinions, he still holds that it’s creativity that separates the arts from the crafts.

“You could make a chair that’s as powerful as Michelangelo’s David, depending on how much expression and originality you put into it,” Conlon said. “If you’re just looking at the instructions from IKEA and you’re just putting it together (even if you’re doing it very well), it’s basically following instructions, not making art.”

Jordan Anderson, chair of the art and graphic design department and associate professor of art, said art is created for the enjoyment of the audience, while a craft is created for the “potential use or consideration of it.”

She said that while they are different in some ways, they can occasionally come together to create something interesting.

Conlon said that arts and crafts each fulfill different needs.

“As much care and skill can go into a craft as an art,” Conlon said. “I suspect everybody’s both craft- and art-oriented with regards to different things and times.”

Conlon said that there are many things people might not think of when they hear the words “arts” and “crafts.”

“You could do philosophy as a craft or as an art,” he said. “Some people follow the logic of an argument in an instruction kind of way. Others create new arguments that take them in different directions and find examples that nobody has thought of before. When people can ask questions newly and originally, then I think you’re doing philosophy as creative art, rather than just repeating questions that others have asked.”

Anderson thinks this use of the term “art” blurs what actual art is.

“There is an art to [other aspects of life], but studio arts and visual arts create a discipline, field and market separate from things like the application of makeup, which might be better suited to a discussion about theater or fashion,” Anderson said. “To say ‘the art of doing something well’ does not imply that the outcome should be automatically categorized as art.”

Anderson said art is highly subjective in the studio process, but it can be explored in an objective manner.

“Some artists attempt to be as objective as possible in the work that they create, whereas others attempt to generate expressive works that convey only subjective emotional content,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the media has complicated our understanding of art and how familiar we are with it.

“It changes the viewing scale, complicates color relationships and removes the aura of the art object by the viewer not being present with the materials,” Anderson said.

Conlon said it would be interesting if we could have as much art in our lives as we can.

“I suppose that would mean we would have a lot less stuff in our lives,” Conlon said. “Such as, if we just focused on wanting expressive chairs rather than comfortable chairs.”



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