Monday, November 03, 2008
Coming Home, Part Two
(Above: View of the American Craft Council Show in Charlotte, NC, 2008.)
Driving from Maine to South Carolina can be done in a really, really long, twenty-four hour sort of day....but not by Steve and me! After spending Halloween in Virginia, we went on to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sure, Charlotte's only about ninety miles from home....but...we went to the American Craft Council show, the Mint Museum of Art and Design, and watched North Carolina Dance Theater' Innovative Works at the Booth Theater. Why rush home!
The Craft Council show was a visual delight, of course. Steve and I completely enjoyed browsing up and down the aisles of fine craftsmanship but couldn't help noticing that the number of vendors had shrunk considerably. We've attended for the past several years. Each year the show is smaller. Many of the booths are quite professional units, the type that travel from one high end venue to the next. The art displayed in these 10' x 10' spaces is always nicely presented, clearly tagged, and next to a Visa/MC sign. The artist is generally present, eager to chat about the work, and obviously capable of balancing creativity with marketing. Yet, Steve and I generally look for the "newcomer" or the outlandish artist offering a unique line of work. We want something that hasn't yet been analyzed for long term consumer interest...something novel...something that has more individual spirit and personal touch. We want art...not merchandise.
Please know....I am more than a little aware of the insult that might be found in my last sentence. I also create "merchandise". I understand the need to sustain a moderate income. I appreciate a professional appearance and the dedication to an available marketing plan. I know...yes....I know and I understand....but that's not what inspires me. It's also not what I'm looking for while "shopping". I look for individuality, unique spirit, and work that makes me smile. I smile when I see fine craftsmanship married to a brilliant idea. It's hard to achieve. It's almost impossible to take on the road with a fine craft festival schedule. There's simply no easy way to have a genius idea that easily translates into a marketable product.
Anyway, there was one vendor that truly captured my heart, my eye, and my brain. Frank Saggus' Wing Ding Home Constructions was undoubtedly the best thing at the ACC show. His birdhouses were outstandingly quirky and well constructed. He understood the need to maintain and clean the units. He was familiar with birds. His work blended everyday objects into one-of-a-kind locations for families of birds. Each house was an individual work of art. There was no sign of an assembly line production. Also, Frank Saggus seemed like a really nice man. He had no high-pitched sales line. His website says that building birdhouses "gives me an excuse to do three things that I have loved to do since I was a kid, tear stuff up, put it back together and dig around in other folks’ 'trash' ". I just LOVE an artist who uses Flickr!
I also tallied the list of artists represented at the American Craft Council show. Almost all had websites. All but two listed an email address. Art and craft are totally part of the computer age! There's really so many beautiful works of art just dying to be seen! The Internet is expanding the view!
So....as for the Mint Museum of Art and Design, Steve and I saw two exhibits: Possiblities and Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection. I was particularly interested in Christina Cordova's work in Possiblities. My friend Jeff Donovan has studied with her at Penland and one of the pieces graces the full color cover of last month's Carolina Arts Magazine. The show was billed as a chance to showcase artist's emerging onto an international art scene....but I couldn't really come to grips with Christina's statement. The work, fortunately, related more than enough spirit. (Above)
The jewelry was....well...avant-garde! Much didn't impress me. Much of it did. Some designs looked good on paper but just didn't function for personal adornment. I coveted many early designs and also many made only a few years ago. Others were too beautiful to consider wearing! Many designs were obviously never mean to be worn. For me, these pieces lost impact because they failed at the function they pretended to adopt. Other works were simply too abstracted to hold my imagination. Yet, most pieces were down right BRILLIANT. The craftsmanship was, overall, beyond my wildest fantasy. I love the Joyce Scott's beaded statements. I saw too much to absorb!
Several pieces were of particular interest as they bridged the gap from jewelry to fiber. Sure, one was by Arlene Fisch. Her work is obvious and brilliant. Yet, I found two other pieces that really captured my attention:
Bussi Buhns' Snow of Yesterday collar (1995). This work blended yards of polyporpylene thread with old (sepia) photo medallions. The work spun memories into a simple tangle of decorative family relations. It defied an era and embraced a kinship. Unfortunately, I could find nothing more about this work or its artist on-line.
Lam de Wolf's Necklace, a painted silk ribbon collar (1983). This work was such a tactile delight...yards of pretty silk ribbon, knotted, wrapped around the shoulders after cleaning up a rainbow of dyes.
Also, I feel madly in love with the concept behind Finnish artist Janna Syvanoja's Necklace, a delicate arrangement of book slices on a metal cord. The concept, the craftsmanship, and the materials simply touched my soul.
The evening's "artistic" event was North Carolina Dance Theater's performance, Innovative Works. Undoubtedly, the highlight was Mark Godden's Constructing Juliet. We saw the full length ballet a couple of years ago. Seeing this smaller segment, however, did not dilute the emotional impact and the contemporary angle from which to view this timeless saga. I was brought to tears. Sasha Janes' work opened the program and was equally entertaining. Steve and I particularly enjoy watching Seia Rassenti grow into a mature dancer. She graduated with our son Mathias and I only hope that there are many watching him since he's so far away. In the meantime, we're really loving watching Seia!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 7:37 PM