Juror’s Statement for Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum 45th Annual Contemporary Craft Exhibition

Mesa Contemporary Art Museum – 45th Annual Contemporary Craft Exhibition

– Juror’s Statement

We thank all the artists who submitted work for consideration in the 45th Contemporary Crafts Exhibition, and applaud your passions and commitments to your crafts.  We would also like to extend our gratitude to all the staff of the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum for their diligence and professionalism in bringing this show to fruition.

At an artist talk that we attended years ago, Leonardo Drew pointed out a shift in the way that art is considered.  The point, he surmised was not ‘what is good art vs. bad art,’ but instead ‘What IS art?’

Correspondingly, many might also ask the question, “What IS contemporary craft?”  To answer this, we believe that one must first consider two questions, “What is craft?”  and “Where is the demarcation between craft and art?  Is craft simply an artistic category related rigidly to specific materials, such as clay, metal, wood, and fiber, and fixed traditions and techniques related to the creation of objects constructed of those materials?  And, how far can a practitioner extend and challenge the recognized boundaries of a craft’s tradition and materials before the work loses all of its links to the field?  Additionally, is the distinction between craft and art simply determined by functionality – or lack of it, or is the inclusion of a “message” or “concept” the crucial delineating factor for determining contemporary craft?

As gallerists and jurors of this exhibition, our conception of contemporary craft, and thus the criteria for which we made our selections for this exhibition, considers the preceding questions as well as several other factors.  When experiencing a contemporary craft work, we contemplate on the material and how the piece simultaneously conforms to and challenges the traditions of the craft through the addition of novel materials and/or use of innovative techniques.  The work can eschew any sense of conventional functional purpose, but a commitment to the spirit of the traditions of the materials and techniques is a must, as is an impeccable detail and attention to craftspersonship.  That is, the piece borrows from and extends a deep understanding of the traditional craft, and evidence of many years of practice are apparent.  While we are drawn to unexpectedness in material use and technique, the innovations must work in an artistic and aesthetic sense by effectively addressing the elements of design. Furthermore, innovations and expansions have to successfully convey the intended concepts of the creator of the work.  In other words, the person creating contemporary craft needs to use the innate vocabulary, social meanings, and techniques typically associated with a field of craft successfully to convey the particular vision or message.  Finally, we hope to feel a strong sense of the artist behind a piece of contemporary craft that speaks out beyond the boundaries that are sometimes imposed by tradition.

Artist, Sir Grayson Perry, ruminating on the path of his career with ceramics stated, “I think it (his ceramic art) sits uncomfortably in the art gallery because it was already an art form and yet it was an artform that was linked to craft and tradition.”   While we understand unease that some people may have concerning craft or contemporary craft, we do not feel that any of the works selected for this exhibition ‘sit uncomfortably’ in this contemporary arts museum. Rather, we believe that these works sit boldly in the gallery representing some of the best examples of current contemporary craft in America, and we are grateful to have been a part of this exhibition.