Friday, May 9, 2008

The Dilemma of Working Art

While I was at the McKnight Foundation looking at the art work of Somali weavers I learned that most of the women who make the beautiful colourful blankets & cloth don't see what they do as art. The unfortunate thing about this is that this leads the creativity, passion, and personality that many people, especially women, put into making materials for everyday use gets marginalized. I think this is truly unfortunate since "high art" comes from the art of everyday people.

Historically the hoi polloi made artifacts such as pottery, cloth, utensils for themselves, their loved ones, families, or for trade. In short they made this so that they could lead their daily lives and when you think of things like the grass that a Somali weaver would have to get, the effort in preparing the tree bark you know that it was done out of love and as a means of self expression. Just like the artistry that a baker puts into perfecting their art or the time and heart that a typesetter puts into designing an attractive type that is legible to as many people as possible.

However when this gets marginalized, maybe because our modern commercial culture cannot monetize it eefectively, or maybe because its' seen as working art, or perhaps because its' an exotic nonwestern creation, it gets lost and not preserved. For collective human culture this is unfortunate since it for posterity it is not likely to be around.

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