We’ve all been moved by art, and this recent episode, “Messages,” highlights several artists who are driven by tragedy to use their craft to inspire change. If you missed the show when it originally aired on Tuesday, May 24 on PBS, be sure to check it out online!
After watching, come back to the ACE blog and share your reactions!
Last week, I was a guest artist at Glenview elementary school. I taught some 60 children, aged k-5, acrylic painting and worked with them on self-portraits and landscape scenes.
My sister who wanted to paint flowers for Mother's Day
Next to my lovely table of students sat a group of senior citizens folding plastic bags, cutting and preparing the edges , making “plarn” (plastic yarn), and crocheting the plarn into sleeping mats for the homeless. When I saw them, I wanted to share their story. These ladies take much of their time to make these 3 feet by 6 feet eco-chic sleeping mats for the disadvantaged in Chicago. While moms and other artists have tried to bribe them into making mats for their homes, sunrooms, etc, the ladies refused, stating that this art is reserved for those who need it the most.
The "assembly line" for the recycled mats.
These sweet, kind, self-less ladies reminded me that art isn’t just about putting your feelings on to media, or creating a masterpiece to be sold in art auctions or stored in a museum—crafts are often made for people to share with one another, whether it’s the latest trends in ceramics (which you will certainly find at ACE this year), or jewelry or even baskets and wearable fiber arts. Art, after all, is meant to share. It’s finding art in the most unlikely of places that reminds me how useful art can be. True art, in my opinion, is beyond technique, hue and form. To me, it’s about having a versatile meaning and usage so that everyone can enjoy and experience it in their own right.
Irene crochets the mats as the final "dame" of the assembly line.
As we all know, the American Craft Magazine, a non-profit educational organization that is “the leading voice for craft in America” (American Craft Magazine, 2011), just celebrated its 70th anniversary. And while the magazine has helped introduce those who I like to call craft rock-stars, an article published this May inspired me to talk about artists we might not have previously heard of.
Rarely do we take time to read about an artist if we don’t know their name off hand. Names of artists are really like clothing labels nowadays. We know Chanel and Versace, and yet we are eagerly surprised by a new designer who comes up with something edgy and unusually charming and appealing. Similarly, when I read American Craft Magazine about Tanya Aquiñiga something just jumped out of me and made me want to sit down on a felt chair.
From the age of 4 to 18, Mexican-American Aquiniga had to wake up at 4 am to get driven across the border to the American side where her relatives lived so she could get to school by 8 am. Each afternoon, she would cross back to Mexico. Thus, it comes as no surprise that she calls herself a cross-over artist. Her art is quite beautiful, with bright vibrant tones and soft media— which allude to her cross-cultural upbringing—but the diversity of media and discipline is what truly strikes me.
Aquiniga’s story begs the question— Have you met an artist whose story is just as remarkable as their art? If so, who is it? In today’s art world, the craft speaks for itself. But, I challenge everyone at ACE this year to find an artist whose name they haven’t heard of and spend time to pick their brains. There is something beautiful in the minds that create beautiful crafts.
A different discipline and contemporary furniture.