I’ve decided to publish a blog post on Wednesdays, republishing posts from my now-defunct and hard-to-find blog at Radio Userland.

Hence, Wayback Wednesday!

Yes, it’s just by chance that this blog post first appeared on a Wednesday. 🙂

If you’d like to see the original post (and others!), click on the title below.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I’m feeling bipolar lately. My mood has been up and down, sometimes all at once. SAYING I need to rethink how to get my artwork out into the world sounds very brave and confident. In reality, I just want to hunker down and run away.Today, in between making horse sculptures for some stores, I followed a link to an interesting blog called “Redefining Craft” which you can see here: http://www.redefiningcraft.com/

I really don’t speak academese, so I skipped through some of his entries until I hit the one for February 8 entitled, “Art vs. Craft: Who’s Winning?” In this entry, Dennis Stevens posts two images, one of a Nike shoe on a stick, and one of a mask by glass artist William Morris.

Or rather, according to Mr. Stevens, “non-artist” William Morris. It turns out the Nike shoe is the image that provokes and enlightens, while Morris’s work is merely a hijack of another culture’s imagery for his own gain.

Wonder what Mr. Stevens would say about my Lascaux imagery?

Oh, well, at least it’s possible that Lascaux IS my cultural heritage. It’s possible some of my ancestors were French.

But I have to admit, I felt a certain dismay that as a craftsperson, I’m in danger of being left on the side of the high-culture highway for lack of having anything potent or portent or important to say.

Doesn’t help that I also recently watched the movie “Art School Confidential” which you can read about here: http://imdb.com/title/tt0364955/

It’s a movie about a young art student at college. He finds his beautiful work is totally ignored by his teachers, his peers and the art world while pretentious, self-aggrandizing crap is revered as “true art”. The kid eventually passes himself off as a serial killer so he can attain his ultimate goal of being a famous artist. (Because as soon as he’s arrested, his paintings sell like hotcakes.)

There’s one thought, and one thought only that moves my heart gently back to its rightful place.

I didn’t deliberately choose any of this (except for one thing.)

I didn’t deliberately manufacturer the message of my art.

Call me lazy, call me shallow, call me a clueless craftsperson or a non-artist. All I know is, ten years ago I felt like I was dying inside. And when I hit the lowest point in my life, I make one of the most important decisions of my life.

I decided to make the stuff that made me feel human again.

I tried a lot of different things and a lot of different techniques until I found the ones that felt…that resonated…the most with what was in my heart.

It just FELT right.

Of course I have great hopes for my artwork. And of course I want people to buy it. And of course I hope to be recognized for making beautiful things.

But I didn’t choose what I do to attain that. It chose me.

All the discussions about art vs. craft, about what makes great art, and who is a “real artist” make my head hurt. They always have.

In the end, I’m left at the end of the day with one question.

Did I make something I’m proud of?

And did I put enough of myself into it that it calls to other people?

And did I do at least one thing to get it out into the world for others to experience?

Okay, more than one question at the end of the day.

But these are the questions I CAN answer.

I’ll leave the more academic questions for wiser people than me to answer.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

4 thoughts on “WAYBACK WEDNESDAY: ART vs. CRAFT: I’m Losing”

  1. Hi Luann, Your post today really resonated with me. The nagging sense that I my art lacks deeper meaning is something that I have felt for a long time. I have lived a placid and mostly happy life (although the past year or so has seen me moving into the new territory of ill and aging parents which is definitely taking me out of my happy place a lot of the time). I have this feeling that if I had lived a more turbulent life that my art would somehow be deeper and more interesting. Since I really don’t want an unhappy life I have learned to accept that my art is what it is and that it has meaning anyway. I have a BFA and I think art school with it’s practice of dissecting and critiquing has skewed how I look at the work I make and makes me think less of it. True art…ha. I came away from art school with less appreciation of myself and it has caused me to teeter on the edge of “Am I an artist? Am I not?” I do not self examine and I do not generally begin an art project with a fixed outcome in mind. I always go with how it feels and do I like it and what if I try this? All the questions in your post are ones that I ask myself with every thing I make. All I can do to answer them is to keep on making. As to the more academic wiser people, are they really?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dawn, before you read this, I realize I may have gone overboard and read your comment too quickly. Short answer: No, you’re not doing it wrong! That’s how I work–I feel drawn to make something, I make it, I try new things. And the story and insight don’t come til afterwards. If you, too, feel I ‘overwrote’ and read too much into your comment, I will happily remove it! (I am a recovering ‘fixer’….!!!) :-p

    Dawn, sounds like we have been on the same journey (or at least the same bus for awhile?) (Same with the year of sad parent issues….) 😦 But the thing about art school making us question ourselves, feeling less-than, wondering if our art is ‘deep’ or ‘interesting’ can be soul-crushing. It’s okay to seek a deeper meaning in our art. It’s also okay to say, “I just like making it, it helps me deal with everything else in my crazy life.” I didn’t find my story until I locked myself in my studio one day, refusing to leave until I got to the bottom of my fascination with the Lascaux Cave. I WROTE my way to clarity. But not everyone writes for that. I’ve done workshops where I could work with people in person, hounding people with one question: Why? Why should I care about your art? Why did you choose that style, that color range, that subject, that medium? Sometimes the answers that seem the most elegant and ‘academic’ are false narratives, and sometimes the most mundane answers have power. One artist of Native American descent remembered the time they spent with their grandmother, pursuing a native craft. They realized they were honoring their memory of their grandmother, and their own heritage. That’s not trivial, that’s beautiful! Family, love, heritage, tribe. Do you have a couple people you trust with your heart, who SEE you and your work? Look for some of my articles on artist statements here in the search box above, search for WHY, and see if any of the exercises are ones you could work on with your friends. (Zoom could work!) Tell them to hold your feet to the fire until you get angry and fire back, or even cry. Often, that’s where the real story is, hidden from view because we don’t think it’s good enough, or “arty” enough, or clever enough. We are told/taught from birth to go along, to get along, to push our dreams into a corner (because they’re silly, or not big enough, or we’re not good enough.) When someone hangs in there, patiently but firmly, demanding you to speak your truth, that can be hard. But it can also break you wide open, in a good way. Whatever makes you cry, that’s where your heart is. If I can help, let me know! You’ve been so generous with insights and suggestions for YEARS now, I would love to help you get there! I just realized that looks like, “let me make you cry!” and that sounds kinda mean. That’s why we need people we trust to do this with. People who see something in us that maybe we can’t see–yet! You’ll know when you see it. Keep me posted, okay?


  3. This article talked about some things I have thought about quite often when I create projects. I joined school coemptions where they tell us a theme and we have to create a piece of art. The themes were very deep and they helped me create art with more meaning.

    I’m glad I found your blog. I can’t wait to read other posts. I recently started my own blog where I post craft projects, I hope you check it out! 🙂


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