By Katie Maish
The distinction between craft and art – and the value placed upon each – is a long-standing, oft-discussed topic in visual arts. Depending upon when and where artists have lived and, importantly, who has had the power to effectively sway the conversation, opinions have varied widely regarding the importance of medium versus message as well as which media are the most highly prized. As Western-dominated histories get retold in universities and museums, a richer, more diverse narrative emerges that questions long-held value systems, particularly as the conversation about access and representation has concurrently flourished.
The gap between what is considered art and craft is fast closing in within contemporary art making, and the South is uniquely situated to embrace this shift. Indeed, the South is an inherently creative culture. We live with art humbly in our homes and communities every day with only a very small part represented in galleries and museums. Tried-and-true craft methods are passed down through generations that influence contemporary work. Long-standing problem-solving practices and storytelling traditions make the South prime ground for artistic expression, borne of necessity as well as inspiration.
For the 102nd issue of Number:, we invited writers to consider who is using craft media in art; what is considered craft; what is accepted as art and who makes these decisions; how material and method play into a larger sociopolitical conversation; and how or whether art and craft come together to tell current, relevant stories in the South. We now warmly invite readers – in this confusing, rapidly changing, scary moment in our nation’s history with the emergence of Covid-19 and nationwide protests over the brutal murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers – to slow down, take a breath, and read about artists that take their time and the utmost care in working with materials. Many of these artists have spent years honing their methods and thinking about why they do what they do. Their intentional slow burn is a welcome – and perhaps even soothing – antidote to current crises. Please enjoy.