Artists have strong ideas and opinions. These are the inspirations, along with their skills, that they use to imbue their work with meaning, prove a point or suggest alternatives. Artists are often driven to use their creativity for what they consider to be the greater good.
The greater good is difficult to achieve, but the artists who dedicate themselves to a cause can make a difference. We see the devastation wrought by natural and manmade emergencies and often feel powerless. Artists, through their works, empower us to improve a situation or change the course of events. We, as the audience, are able to understand and act when inspired by the artist. What has inspired the artists who are included in the MESSAGES episode of Craft in America?
Thomas Mann,Markings No. 4 - Wall Street, Storm CycleSeries, Will Crocker photograph
Thomas Mann, New Orleans jewelry artist and sculptor, created theStorm Cycleseries to share the personal stories of Hurricane Katrina, the individual experiences that changed lives but were not reported in the media. In Tom's words, "I believe that the topics I've chosen for the themes of the panels inStorm Cycledepict an alternative angle of view of the event, one that maintains a sense of humor about the human condition and our sense of resilience to catastrophe while pointing out the foibles and contradictions of the power structures we expect to protect us. It is also my clear intent to keep the plight of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast alive in the mind of America via the medium of the arts."
Joyce J. Scott,Man Eating Watermelon, 1986, Kanji Takeno photograph
Joyce J. Scott, Baltimore bead artist, uses her knowledge of glass, quilting, printmaking and performance to comment on issues as diverse as race, necromancy, and the scourge of drugs on the inner city. Joyce comments on her work: "I skirt the borders between comedy, pathos, delight and horror. I invite the viewer to laugh at our collective selves. Humans are hilariously precocious." By making art that attracts by its brilliant color and sparkle, she entices us to look, and by looking, we are forced to confront issues that we would rather not have to deal with. All the while, Joyce maintains a joy that imbues her work with energy and beauty.
Charles M. Carrillo,Saint Teresa,Adrian Aragon photograph
Charles M. Carrillo is a bridge between culture and historical eras. A Neuvo Mexicano, he is a direct descendant of the Spanish conquistadors who entered what is now New Mexico in the Sixteenth Century. He is also related to the American Indians who have inhabited the Southwest for millennia. Often a difficult and brutal history, the story of New Mexico is embodied in the paintings and sculptures of Charles, archeologist turned Santero, or saint painter. Using his background in archeology and science, he has re-invented the processes and materials used by Santeros centuries ago and married them to the designs and traditions of the American Indians who live in the pueblos. His message is one of reconciliation, harmony and humanism. His tools are the artist's paintbrush and the sculptor's chisel.
L: Beth Lipman,Candlesticks, Books, Flowers and Fruit, 2010, Courtesy of Heller Gallery
R: Beth Lipman,After You're Gone, 2008, Courtesy of Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
Beth Lipman is a glass artist who uses the traditional still life painting as the starting point for her elaborate, complex "still lives" which are often laden with hundreds of blown and lamp worked glass objects, the ghostly remains of an extravagant party. These sculptures capture the visual sumptuousness and excess of a feast. Her work has several messages. It is about lavish abundance and decay and reminds us to consider not only the frivolity of the moment, but also the consequences of our actions.
To enjoy the beauty of a handmade object is a pleasure. In MESSAGES, we are drawn to the artists' thoughts and aspirations as well as their creativity. Their ideas are as brilliant as their designs; their mission is to make art that makes a difference.