Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Exhibit - Mint Museum of Craft and Design, NC

Charlotte, North Carolina has a vibrant arts community. Visiting last week, I was on a quest to find everything artistic that I could within a 40 minute walk (each way) from the Convention Center. The Mint Museum of Craft and Design is a nice place to spend a couple of hours and it's only a short walk from the Reid's Fine Foods grocery store. The Reid building has long slim plastic panels embellishing the exterior that sound to the touch. Sit outside and have a deli lunch and watch the people go by. The majority will take a few side-steps to touch the panels and wait for the sound of human giggles or musical chimes.

The dividing line between Art and Craft is not a clear one to me. In the pre-1970's U.S.A. it was an easier designation. Most anything a woman made or most anything anybody made from a non-European nation was a craft. That left the obvious utilitarian arts (U.S.A. and Euro made) like silver- smithing, ceramics and furniture to occupy the center stage of Craft (with a capital "C", the kind of Craft that makes it to a museum). I'd often hear my teachers talk about the point when fine craft could become fine art. This argument was made by men born before the time that fast-food, fast-clothing and fast-everything took over our culture.

So here's my observation: Images which used to be firmly in the "art" camp are now so easy to produce with a camera and computer software, that they often don't seem very "fine" or artistic to me. And now that the majority of stuff most Americans own isn't made by anybody they've ever met, seen or have the faintest idea where their country is on a map, the handmade object is turning into "art" and the machine-made image is sorta still "art".

My trip to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, was a respite. I knew that the moment I walked through the door, my convoluted decision making process could go off the random setting. Somebody else had made the decision and everything beyond the door was both art and craft. What a relief!

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