I started out simple and then my art history mind went crazy. I could not post the whole thing in the string, so I thought I would blog it here… I am an Artisan .. thus EPJ ~ artisan.
Here is what I think I know about the development of Artist / Craftsmen.
The concept and importance of “Art” is subjective and reflective and very cultural. Primitive cultures use “art” as a form of communication, usually ritualized into a greater importance beyond the visual and into the sacred. “Art” has societal function and tool for ubiquitous understanding of human archetypes and anthropomorphism. Druids of ancient Europe, similar to some Muslim law about images of religious nature, forbid the images of god created animals and humans, except in relation to the sacred, or gods themselves. Though most of what we know of the Druids is mostly through biased accounts of Roman soldiers… now known to be mostly political spins back in Rome to encourage the citizens support of the concurring Gaul. (Which also included terrorism on civilians and destruction of cultural value, including artwork, to de-moralize … everyone should read the Prince to understand what is going on today in a similar manner) Which bring it to the next stage of art as communication for political power and recognition. This is the first division, in my opinion, of the artist from the tradesmen. Where there is wealth there is the luxury of art for no greater purpose other than secular power balanced by Art used for the purpose of control over the masses through imagery and indoctrination. A practice called “marketing” today.
The Roman approach to art was far different from the Greeks dedication of art, which had the refinement of art without question of purpose or functionality, but yet controlled with social morality (nudes were only late in Greek history) and religious faith. The Roman use of art as a social tool is echoed into the suppression and control of art forms through the middle ages due to the Roman Church. Art had one purpose, but to the glory of God, which continued into the 14th century. And funny, Padua in Italy was one possible source for the Renaissance, for the while the church was making sure art was used for politics and God across Europe, the Padua University was left to a century of exploration in art (and some science) and nearly back into a secular realm.
Freed from the control of the church Art became more mainstream to the upper class families, not just the divine rule of Kings. As massive amounts of people were moving from the country farms to the City, everything from fashion to architecture became specialized fields. But the discovery of electricity changed every thing. The real break in the Craftsmen from Artist comes from the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. We also see here a growing specialty of “design” emerging from this era, determining what is efficient and what is opulent. Design was conceptual work for other people’s needs or purposes, but not the manufacturing. So now we have Artists, Designers, and Craftsmen. Which only works really well in a well balanced economy, with affordable resources, and a good market among a middle class which can churn local money. Value is seen, value is created, value is subjective. Art and Craft can flourish.
Unfortunately, the industrial revolution created the Barons who quickly replaced the tyranny of Feudal Lords of the Medieval era, yet even without the churches moral backing, they standardized value and streamlined production. Yes, the turn of the last century, was a blossoming of art styles and meanings, but only as long as money was shared across the middle and upper classes. But was not “popular” among the common class until much later, mostly due to the wealthy kept their art in homes and not among museums yet. Many artist died poor, even if their work was valuable. The common man was more concerned with making a living. Here the industrial revolution crushed the tradesmen.. Stripping them of value and purpose, forcing them from self-reliant people, into factory slaves. Which is why Unions were started to protect men, women, and children against the abuse of corporate greed.. hmm…
What we see now, and the confusion, debate, and reluctance to label oneself … actually started in the 80’s when art and religion clashed in a culture war. Art was further divided off from culture by media, money, and social backlash … but freed back to it’s original purpose of communication of the sacred .. the emotions.. the “Heart” mentioned above. Art, like back in Padua, embraced the university as secular islands for exploration. Yet, without a greater culture to link with … Art became a subculture, full of darker explorations and often shunned by mainstream society, which chose to focus on the commerce of Design and the further decline of the craftsmen in favor of cheap Industry.
Today, after decades of corporate greed and massive debts both in the personal world and in government. Craft is now trite and common, art is not really important to the masses and both are the first things cut in every budget. A significant sign of the decline in cultural wealth, we are becoming a poor country with wealthy people in it.
Yet, I am heartened that any given economy those that create will always survive and those that are parasites will not. And while there are wealthy people, some artists will get known, some craftsmen will live well. I believe that even though “the victors write the history books” … it’s the artists that actually record history. For long after history fades to myth, bronzes and ceramics will still be there.
So I like that my work in wood it is only temporary, it was reborn and will die again, it has more variety than paint, and more intensity than clay. I am an Artisan.. I design for others, I make for purposes, I draw what I want, I make from my hands, my heart, my mind, and for the money. Mostly since I do not fit many places in this world… so when I am alone in the studio.. I am just a minor god.
-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."