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When does Craft become Art?

ART TIMES Sept/ Oct 2009

Perhaps I can offer an answer that might be satisfactory to Ginger Lee Hendler's question, "What is art and when is it craft?"  (July/August Issue, page 10).

Art is craft that leaps into a metaphor.
True art evokes meanings and emotions far beyond what the viewers observe.  Craft remains the underlying basis of art, but no matter how well done, is merely what it looks like.

I discovered this distinction while preparing my newspaper columns for publication in book form.  While every article contains factual information about local history, some remained at that level.  Fortunately, most of them distinguished themselves by leaping into metaphors.  For example, old ruins became poignant metaphors for aging.  Census data recorded over two centuries were not just statistics; they became numerical portraits of our dynamic society.  Old abandoned cemeteries became philosophical hot beds of being, nothingness, and theology.

Every article has an accompanying photograph, which assisted the leap into metaphor.  What amazed me in hindsight was that I did not consciously intend such results.  I just wanted to take some good pictures that illustrated the point.

After this enlightening experience I now approach my drawings with newfound zeal.  When I notice that a work is standing still instead of leaping, I cast it aside and begin a new one, striving for that magic leap into a metaphor. (Donald A. Windsor lives in Norwich NY).

Ginger Lee Hendler responds:
Dear Mr. Windsor,
I thank you for your response to my article. Is it possible that we are going back to the basic tenet, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?” You aptly say that “art is craft that leaps into metaphor”, yet I contend that this, too, is a subjective response that attempts to define the indefinable. The book, “The Rifle” by Gary Paulsen, tells the story of a rifle that was finely crafted during the Revolutionary War. It follows the gun that was so lovingly crafted to perfection, weaving the events leading to the ultimate tragedy. I use this as an analogy to your metaphor. The gun is more than a finely crafted weapon. Is it a work of art? Does it fulfill the conditions necessary to make it a work of art? Perhaps it fulfills the definition by Plato, in that it has the power to stir the emotions. What is the metaphorical leap here? Another question that we can ponder — ad infinitum. (Ginger Lee Hendler is Long Island Correspondent for ART TIMES).