Art vs. Craft, and Artist’s Statements

It can be hard to think of things to blog about as someone new to the game who wants to post regularly. Or semi-regularly. We’ll see. Point being, I’ve decided today to start in on a subject I care a lot about: art. Specifically, the difference between art and craft.

Now, I don’t want to get into this in a whole lot of depth right away, because I’ve also applied for a freelance writing position for which I could use these ideas. I want to hold onto my assets for the time being, since I’ve just discovered they might be worth money, which I could use. But it’ll be a good start, and anyway, there’s always more to learn about art, so I’ll be able to add on later.

I heard a quote recently that went something like “a laborer works with their hands; a craftsman works with their hands and head; and an artist works with their hands, head, and heart”. I think this sums up the difference as I see it aggravatingly well – if I’d heard the quote while I was in college it could’ve spared me a lot of mental anguish. I came to the conclusion that personal expression, described aptly if a bit too sweetly in the quote as “heart”, is what makes a thing art.

There’s this mindset that’s equal parts awful and pervasive in which people insist that anything beautiful or particularly well done must be art. This – for the love of god, people – does not constitute art. A meadow at dawn in springtime is beautiful, but not art. Someone’s outfit may be well put together, but is not art. An LS3 engine, while an impressive example of modern engineering, is not art (barring a coincidental encounter with Duchamp). There’s also a quasi-academic opinion that some people like to sling around to sound smart that states that art has to be useless. Suffice it to say that functional art, for one, begs to differ. So please don’t say these things anymore.*

Anyway, expression. It’s super important, but can be very hard to identify. An amateur might make “art” without being fully invested (therefore, it’s not art) and it’ll be obvious, but someone with more experience might be able to make a facsimile reasonable enough to fool even trained eyes. So what recourse does a nosy art major have to determine the artistic worth of a piece? Artist’s statements, comes the answer from out of the mildly pretentious ether.

An artist’s statement usually accompanies a body of work, or applies to all of an artist’s work and is available on their website, or some such thing. Basically, it presents the intent of their work and provides some context from the perspective of the artist. This, as you might imagine, is an INCREDIBLY VALUABLE RESOURCE for the viewer. I went to a college capstone exhibition just a month or so ago and was fortunate enough to attend the artists’ oral defense afterward (in which they provided much the same information as would be in their artist’s statement). One presentation in particular added tons of context and proof that the artist was fully invested in their work, and therefore proved it to really be art by the aforesaid criteria. I had the same experience in college when hearing and reading about the work of my peers – things can be hard to understand when you experience them in a vacuum, so a little context can go an awfully long way.

I fear this post is getting a bit long, and I’ve got to save some material for later, but I’ll leave you with this thought that came about from a conversation with a college friend: good art is an exercise in empathy.

By the way, if you have input on artistic subjects, I welcome it – that’s how people learn, and the art world is subjective at best anyway. Head on over to that Contact page and let me know. And if you want to read more, stay tuned. I have many more opinions.


*Unless you can REALLY back it up, in which case my liberal arts sensibilities are assuaged, if only temporarily.


2 thoughts on “Art vs. Craft, and Artist’s Statements”

  1. Nice! I’d love to see you address medium as it applies to all of this. In the sense that a boring painting is usually considered art but a vase has to be put in context.

    Liked by 1 person

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