When the Homer Council on the Arts put out a call for this month’s show, “Work = Art,” director Peggy Paver said at first she thought the art that came in might represent the craft side of creation.
“When the idea first started being bandied about, it was the logical choice of where you might go with ‘work equals art,’” she said. “It was the perception that welding is work, but you also can make some cool art with welding.”
As artists and craftspeople submitted proposals and brought in their pieces, that notion went out the window. “Work = Art” includes explorations of the theme of work, found art, art that supports other art and even elegant design like a seine net built by Bulletproof Nets.
“One of the coolest things was when the fishing net came in,” Paver said. “It was sitting on the floor in the office. We had a handful of fishermen come in saying, ‘I heard of this net. I want to look at it.’”
The Bulletproof net dominates the show, sprawling across one wall. Other examples of practical crafts includes a couch, several pieces of furniture, a Canada goose toilet plunger, museum displays and decorative stitching for quilts.
Josiah Campbell, co-owner of Bulletproof Nets with Matt Alward, said they think of netbuilding with its roots in an old world art form but updated.
“We’re trying to really push the envelope as far as design changes,” Campbell said.
“What we do is art, but it’s also pretty functional,” Alward said.
Campbell said the show opened right after he’d come back from Japan to see where Bulletproof’s net materials come from, but also to visit with Asano Metal, a company working with Bulletproof on a multi-purpose shackle. That timing was serendipitous and helped him understand how manufacturing is treated in Japan — “more like an art form,” Campbell said.
“There’s an analogy called ‘painting the back of the fence,’” he said. “You want even the part you don’t see to look good. That attention to detail is something we don’t see here.”
Also in the show is a meticulous drawing engineers would appreciate: the blueprint of that shackle by Noboro Wantanabe, a drafter for Asano Metal.
Sharlene Cline’s “Feminism Barbie” looks at the idea of work in a more philosophical way. Like the Hindu god Shiva, her sculpture features the head and torso of a blonde Barbie doll, hair cut similar to Cline, with eight arms holding Playskool toy objects a working artist mother like Cline might wield. Wearing yoga pants, the doll sits in an imperfect pose atop a stack of books with titles like “Miss Manner’s Guide to Rearing Perfect Children” and “Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook.”
Cline said when she showed the sculpture to women, they understood the idea immediately, but when she showed it to a man, “he was looking at it really baffled,” she said. “I was, ‘Wow. There’s not a universal understanding.’”
Cline said as a busy artist, mother and restaurant owner, she has thought of the simpler life of her parents and their rigid work roles.
“I’m thinking sometimes, ‘Wait a minute. What did I fight for?’” she said. “I’m a total feminist. It’s that idea — we fought for equal rights. We fought for equal pay. … We fought for all this, but it hasn’t equaled out yet. We’re still doing both.”
At the show’s opening for First Friday, Cline said one HCOA board member made the comment that “Work = Art” brought together a diverse group of people.
“This brought people to think about stuff in a new light, both art and craft. I really enjoyed that part, because it doesn’t happen often that it makes people think,” Cline said.
That discussion also got people thinking about the distinction between art and craft, but also the connection. The difference between art and craft is an old theme in aesthetic theory.
“Why in some circles people don’t see craft as art is a little mind-boggling to me,” Paver said. “You have to have really nailed the technical craftsmanship before you can take your medium into an artistic form.”
One work, Jim Ellison’s exploded polyurethane foam and can, is found art, a sculpture that comes from the cast off of work. The gets at the heart of how craft can be art.
“Any medium whether it’s toilet paper or oil paints can be contemporary art, because it’s making you think,” Cline said.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Work = Art
Work by Sarah Frary, Willie Tymrak, Karrie Youngblood, Astrid Friend, Walter Pudwill, Melisse Reichman, John Willis, Linda Robinson, Lisa Krebs, Jim Ellison, Josiah Campbell, Sharlene Cline, Jack Pack, Kate Fariday, Art Koeninger
and Bob Ritchie
on the Arts