Prompted from a post of "Are you and Artist or a Craftsmen?"

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Blog entry by EPJartisan posted 04-17-2011 01:14 AM 5528 reads 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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."

13 comments so far

View Dave's profile


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#1 posted 04-17-2011 01:57 AM

Woo. I enjoyed reading that. You are educated, informed and well read. Thank you for your thoughts. Well done.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

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#2 posted 04-17-2011 07:39 AM

Looks interesting. I’ll be back without a migraine in tow ;-((

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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#3 posted 04-17-2011 08:05 AM

There were representations of nudes in early ( Archaic Period ) of Greek art such as istyphallic satyrs , and they continued into the clasical period . Classical Greek Art certainly had functionality and purpose in regards to woodworking , metallurgy and weaponry , masonry , textiles , pottery , archetecture , adornments , etc .

Classical Romans were great admirers of Greek Culture , adopting and incorporating their arts and religion into the fabric of their society , just as they absorbed the Etrusscans for their mines and expert metal working secrets . They knew the value of incorporating and being tolerant (up to a point ) of many people and their customs and art and religions . It was to their advantage to do so , just as it is in America today

I find this period and back to pre-history more interesting than the last 2000 years . Some people commented that your piece entitled ’ Eye Container ’ was creepy . I thought it was engaging . In Greece or Egypt in 200 B.C. it’s symbolism would be instantly understood .

As you said ” Primitive ( archaic ) cultures use art as a form of communication , usually ritualized into greater importance beyond the visual and into the sacred ”. ( incorporating mind altering substances to obtain this vision also, which is well documented ) . Now we are getting closer to the true insights in art and artisans.

Well , I’m just a carpenter and I don’t know jack , but this stuff has been fun to read and the kind of stuff i think about ( from Golbekli Tepe to Copper Canyon ) while I’m hanging doors and trim . And as Will Rogers once said ” I never met a man I didn’t like ” ..........
Rock on EPJ …..thanks .

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#4 posted 04-17-2011 04:37 PM

Enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for posting.

-- Jack, Albuquerque

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#5 posted 04-18-2011 11:29 PM

I think your assessment of the 80’s is spot on – especially the shunning of art.
I see a weird evolution being in college in the 80’s where in the past Art projects were something that funds were often raised for privately – or through many acts of philanthropy and people giving back to the comunities. There are still those activities happening – but they have faded from the public debate.

Art seemed to evolve into a new government funded program – with set asides for all public works projects had to spend “up to 5% for Art included in the public works budget” but once you had a 30 million dollar overpass being built – - people struggled to find “big enough” art to use up a 1 million dollar budget and it had to be installed on the same site as that interstate overpass. So the “Art” become objects of derision and held up as monuments of waste. The art commission says it will draw visitors – but we have really large format art at the wastwater treatment plant here in Salina. Don’t care how beautiful the art is – nobody is heading out to the water treatment plant to check out the new artwork. Now 40 foot tall stainless steel trees to be erected in the median in front of the local Walmart for $250K since the taxpayers got to widen the road for better access to their parking lot. I look at the 250K being sent to New Mexico – and see 5 laid off teachers salaries as more important than the beautification of the Wal Mart Parking lot.(something I think Wal mart should pay for themselves).

Similarly it seems you are only an “true artist” if you have an NEA grant and make things that are intentionally controversial to get your name out there in the press (e.g. “crucifix in jar of urine”), not to expand ones thinking about how to view the abstract or beautiful but to make a ruckus in the news for name recognition. If there aren’t protests you musn’t be doing your art correctly seems to be the mantra of artists – and why craft and woodwork even when well executed and even quite abstract seems to still be excluded from the rarified atmosphere of the artist club.

-- 'Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners' ~George Carlin

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#6 posted 04-18-2011 11:44 PM

Thank you, I enjoy the ride, and will enjoy to feel me God of my little workshop next time I go there.
Love your thoughts here.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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#7 posted 04-19-2011 12:07 AM

I think I’m more artist, and less God…

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View EPJartisan's profile


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#8 posted 04-21-2011 07:09 PM

thanks for the feedback. I find it interesting when comparing the Moment’s reply to DrDirt’s reply.

“Primitive” art/craft was intrinsic to a culture, individuals made art and craft for ritual purpose to tell stories, to homogenize individual experience into a shared morality that can evolve and change with the primitive tribe for survival… strong individuals make a strong society. This is why Folk art will always have place of value, for it is a direct individual sharing culture in the ways that reflects the limitations of that culture.

DrDirt proves to me the problem today.. the separation of the individual from the culture.. the Art from the culture … which as I tried to point out above… was the fault of politics and religion attempting to control and standardize what is about individuals and flexibility of a culture.

Historically and today, religious and political ideals create the division of culture from it’s Art. The NEA was created in the 60’s to get art to the public and to encourage excellence in American cultural wealth (fine art, music, dance, literature), and … as is true across history … constantly fought against by those who dislike funding things that exhibit, create, or glorify change and exploration of new thoughts and concepts. Those are freedoms that take money from God or political favor… so they are hated, which becomes fuel for the next round of artists. Neither side will ever win.

Get rid of the National Endowment of the Arts and what do you think will happen??
Will the art stop.. no. Like I said , I believe artists record history.. we will record all the religious and political moral smarminess and abuse upon society, including gettin rid of the NEA.

“Piss Christ” came after, and in response to, the Christian Conservatives who started this battle against the Arts when Ronald Reagan took office. The photo was only a weapon in this battle and indeed did fuel the long fight against religious conservatives who are more concerned about money and control of funding things they did not feel was important… or worse.. “offensive.”

Yet, this photo is only one art piece among hundreds of thousands of objects of art and performance pieces that are worthy of rewards. It is like canceling of all of Pro Sports for one pro-football player started a fight. Would you believe people would stop playing sports in college or on the weekends? Will people stop giving money to watch people excel at the sport? Nope.. All will go on as before, only without advertising and TV time.

Art will go one because it is also an investment of both cultural history and monetary value. Cut off NEA and all this goes to the wealthy again.. and sends cutting edge art underground only to rise again in the future with a cultural value. Get rid of NEA and only the public suffers. Artists will always prevail and create and continue to make great, beautiful, and controversial art. Public money, private money… from where ever, it is what artists do. In fact, like I said above… even arguing about the NEA is once again church and politics exacerbating the divide of art from societal culture because Art adds culture but can not be controlled.

It’s similar to my sister (whom I was never close to) and myself. She treats me like a 10 year old brother, insulting and general disrespect for all I have become. I’ve talked to her about it, fought with her about it, and when I finally said, “I have a great life with or without you, but only you make our relationship difficult..” she just walked away… oh well, she looses. Just like the church, politics, and business treat artists and craftsmen, in the end end public funding … only the public suffers.

I reiterate again.. only the Public will suffer from the lack of cultural wealth the NEA brings to the USA… a wealth of change and exploration, for the inability to change and adapt is death to a culture. Remove the arts from view from the common man and value changes, creative vision is limited to wealth, and class lines become pronounced and hard to cross.

But now I have to pick apart a few things from DrDirt’s post.

Philanthropy has never been on the public debate and it never will be part of it.
The debate is
~ to the Liberal : over American cultural wealth and global integrity
~ to the Conservative : I’m not spending my tax money on things we don’t like

The NEA is funded at the moment: $155 million across the nation and includes museums, theaters, concerts, art schools, literary arts, artist rewards and grants. That is only a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket of the national budget to cover hundreds of areas and thousand and thousands of national cultural resources for the public. Your 5% of the budget would be over $180 billion.. that would be nice, but what a joke.. 5% hilarious!!!

“So the “Art” become objects of derision and held up as monuments of waste.”

Yes, public art is often seen as waste, I have no objection to that critique. Some is indeed waste, but the NEA does not fund projects like this.. it is state and local taxes usually mixed with private funds.. and are usually voted on by referendum.

Now if, you don’t like it that you didn’t get a word about sculptures in your water treatment facility … that is your local government not the NEA. Personally, water treatment is about awareness and education of our impact on our quality of living. If I was taking my kids to show them how important it is that our society cleans our waste.. that we care about our world and keep it beautiful … nothing does that better than putting a flower on a piece of dung. And also, long in the future, those monuments to our water works could be evidence that we didn’t destroy the earth with gusto. Artists record history.

I looked a bit into your sculptural trees for $250k near Walmart.. nothing on-line and trust me something at that cost, that controversial and nothing on the net… LOL.. I will need some proof that this isn’t just a Fox News misinformation spin.

The NEA did indeed grant a total of $282,500 to all of New Mexico’s arts, opera, theatre, music, museums, literary arts, youth arts, and some individuals in 2010. Take that away and i see more people out of work and life becoming more of a struggle for many more educators than your 5 teachers.

Most artists get NEA grants around 5-15K.. not enough than to make a few more pieces, or pay rent while making those pieces, or to get a little more ahead. Most NEA grants go to local councils who further divide the money for more artists for small shows and materials.

“Similarly it seems you are only an “true artist” if you have an NEA grant and make things that are intentionally controversial to get your name out there in the press (e.g. “crucifix in jar of urine”), not to expand ones thinking about how to view the abstract or beautiful but to make a ruckus in the news for name recognition.

~ please consider: only people who do not see themselves as artists or separated from art / artists believe there is a distinction of “true artist.”

As for the rest… absolutely not true, but it does happen. Manet’s did a nude (“Olympia”) that is similar in every way to prior classical nudes. But it was incredibly controversial and was socially hated as immoral, because she had a red flower in her hair, she had shoes on, and looked directly at the viewer. Essentially shunned because Olympia “knew she was naked” (not just a nude) and enticed the viewer like a would a “whore”

What you do not understand is that Art needs to get noticed out there, and yes controversial issues does just that, but it is not a requirement. Sometimes it is intentional, sometime accidental. Controversial pieces are to expand ones mind, that is what makes them controversial … to see abstract beyond the surface.

Regardless, not matter how controversial, the piece must stand alone as excellence in craft and image. And honestly, if I had no idea what it really was “Piss Christ” truly is a beautiful image, but yes… even the title creates disgust and anger more than the image.
And yet, it will go down in history as a piece of great and powerful art, no matter how much someone hates it.

Artists make art, not decorations. Art explores and sees the world in new ways, uses materials in new ways, ponders and questions the traditional, makes feelings happen of love and hate, disturbs or comforts the mind and soul, it makes you talk.
Decorations are nice to look at.

“If there aren’t protests you musn’t be doing your art correctly seems to be the mantra of artists – and why craft and woodwork even when well executed and even quite abstract seems to still be excluded from the rarified atmosphere of the artist club.”

You see, this is how the distinction of art and craft gets obscured, by idealisms of money and religion getting in the way. Talented craftsmen who make art, can not reconcile this division and get lost. Artists don’t often think about it, but are afraid to commit to intrinsic value in craft or they loose subjective value. Craftsmen are afraid to put subjective meaning into things because then it has less intrinsic value. Craftsmen exclude themselves from the art world and vice versa.

Art and craft are the same, and still function today as within Primitive cultures, only our idealisms get in the way. Neither side can win this war and only cultural wealth gets damaged.

This is why Lumber Jocks is so important to me, a place where the material governs the value, and the information determines social approval. Not church, not state, and not money!

-- " '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."

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#9 posted 04-21-2011 08:24 PM

EPJartisan, I just read this entire thread and although I agree with most of what you say, I do believe you have been very rude to one of the contributors. You are ridiculing Drdirt and you are wrong. It is not a “Fox News misinformation spin” which is the cry of the liberal when the truth doesn’t paint them in a good light. Here is the non Fox news link to the article for the proposed 246,000 dollar plus sculpture he referenced.
It seems your searching skills aren’t quite up to par, which isn’t his fault.

Also, he stated very clearly that he was talking about 5 percent of publics works projects funding dedicated to art, and said nothing of the national budget so I believe you owe him an apology for calling what he said “ridiculous”. Before you decide to “pick apart” someone’s comment, please ensure you have your facts straight if you are going to be so smug. You have gotten so upset in the past with people slighting you, that I just could not let this go when you were putting someone down for nothing more than stating his opinion which differed from yours.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

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#10 posted 04-21-2011 10:01 PM

Thanks DaleM … I am sorry DrDirt. I mean no rudeness, honestly. I apologize. This is why i am fascinated by the social networking sites… what I did was harmless in my view, but I understand not everyone can feel the same, so seriously I meant no offense. I never do. Eventually we shall all learn to moderate or move on to a new site. :)

And Dale …
Thank you for the link, which I asked for, even if in a rude manner. Although it still does not explain the 5% thing, and the only time I have heard this in a biased news report anoit the national budget, hearsay I give ya, but that was the source of my reaction and my mistake of assumption … sorry.

I come across much more academic (which is argumentative … and of which I am out of practice and often find grammatical mistakes) and I believe in the pursuit of fact, not the ownership of truth. I know that this often seen as arrogance and rudeness, but honestly it is not. I beg you to understand that after writing essay after essay, thesis after thesis, and one gets into this habit of proving oneself. Yet, if you also read any string here on LJs where I was brusk.. I apologized if I was insulting or rude.. that is not the same with others on this site. I have no intention to make anyone feel bad about anything.

I firmly believe in the Socratic adage … “[One] sign of an intelligent mind is to entertain a concept or idea without taking it personal.” but then the exception to this rule are direct insults and uncouth opinions (personal concepts or ideas) which I had to defend personally here on LJs. Referring to me as “smug”, was rude as well, for it kinda belittles the value of my earned and validated education, which I will cling to for all the $80,000 I am paying. :) But don’t worry, I get your point. Humility gained, if not reluctantly.
.... Peace all. ~ e

-- " '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."

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#11 posted 04-21-2011 10:11 PM

EpJartisan, I was just taken aback by what I perceived to be the rude tone of your reply to Drdirt’s comment. Now, after re-reading my comment, I agree that I was also rude and I do apologize for calling you smug, because you do seem very well educated in the arts and (mostly, haha) open to different opinions and viewpoints.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

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#12 posted 07-11-2011 08:43 PM

EPJ – while I did not find any offense in your viewpoint towards what I wrote some of your response does highlight the problem of art in the community.
My original post agreed with you when you said:
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.
I attempted to point to where some of the shunning has come from in the past 20 years.
If you reread – I never called for the elimination of the NEA.
Rather I point to the construct that one seems to only have the right to call themselves an artist if they have gotten the “grand poohbah seal of approval” by securing a grant – - and that that seal (it seems – hence an opinion) cannot be secured unless one pleases the high council by forwarding an agenda of controversy.
In my opinion – Artists need to look at why their contributions are often not viewed by the majority of people as a positive contribution to the communities.
Yes I go back to the artwork here on South Ninth, or the wastewater treatment plant. The Art is “marketed to the public that paid for it” that it will increase tourism. Most rational folks here recognize that Salina is a drive by town on a major East West interstate. The idea that folks heading for Aspen, will say “Hey Martha lets go into Salina and check the new artwork over at the sewage settling pond in Salina” as justification for spending on public art – have set themselves up for such derision. I recognize that not everybody will see a piece of art positively – but don’t try to tell me it will be “like the gateway arch in St. Louis!” and draw visitors.

I merely was attempting to show why it is the art that is Thrust Upon us, affects peoples reaction when there is news of a proposal for spending on art. The people forced to pay for it tend to roll their eyes and think “now what!”
I do think our town moved in the right direction right now – I like the following project – I posted the link to avoid accusations of being giving a misinformation spin -

All sculptures will be promoted for sale, and artists will be eligible to win various awards, including People’s Choice Purchase Award. Those touring the sculptures can cast votes for their favorites, and the winner will be purchased by the city of Salina for the listed purchase price up to $15,000.

The sculpture then will be installed in the community as part of the city’s public art collection

-- 'Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners' ~George Carlin

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#13 posted 07-11-2011 09:30 PM

I had done the very complex google search
for – Salina art controversy
Sorry there were only 239000 hits –
Here is your LOL joke about 5% for art.

Excerpt: since you seem unwilling to look yourself.
Budgeting for art
If a project is selected to incorporate public art, a sum equal to up to 5 percent of the project’s construction cost can be set aside as a budget for the artwork. There is a minimum budget of $10,000 for community art components.

“The percentage for what we put in for each of these projects is small—1 to 5 percent,” she said. “It’s a small token of an investment in each capital improvement project.”
I recognize that a quarter million is peanuts in Chitown – but my point that in a town of 47K people – sending a quarter million off to New Mexico and simultaneously cutting education doesn’t sit well with most folks.
Even those who traditionally support arts programs.

-- 'Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners' ~George Carlin

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