I’m not even sure if “debate” is the correct word for it anymore; It’s a seemingly endlessloop set on replay. Is woodturning Art? Not that anybody listens or takes notice, but the unequivocal answer is, “no”. But as with most big questions there’s a rider…but it can be.
The debate baffles me on two counts: firstly because this point seems to escape people, and secondly because it continues to be asked, debated, waffled about (and I count myself in this last), and yet fails to reach a conclusion.
So why does it continue to raise its ugly head, and why does all the discussion fail to reach a conclusion?
At the risk of upsetting yet more people, here are my answers.
In my opinion the debate continues because there are individuals who seem to have a vested interest in the answer being “yes”. If the answer is yes, and woodturning is Art, then what they produce is art, and would then carry a premium price.
The debate does not reach a conclusion because ultimately the answer will not, cannot, come from the woodturning community, but from outside, from galleries, the art community, from collectors, critics, and art publications.
And none if this is likely to come to pass unless we, the woodturning community, begin to work in a different way, promote in a different way, think in a different way, and support the change which is required to achieve the distinction. But more importantly, what we need is woodturning artists. Not woodturners who produce veiled semblances of art, pretty objects, well-crafted objects with decorative merit, but art. And I don’t think the distinction is even acknowledged.
I do believe that there are woodturning artists out there, but suspect that know what and who they are, and simply get on with. They make art. I also believe that most of those clamoring for the distinction, to be enrolled into the hallowed halls of the artist, are not, and probably never will be artists. They will continue to make fantastic objects on the lathe, and they will find a market for them which is willing to purchase and eager to enjoy them. But that doesn’t make them artists, nor their work art. But why do they care? See above.
It seems to me that we miss an opportunity here. If we supported those with a genuine artistic talent, help to promote them, help to get for them the recognition they should have, then we would all benefit anyway. We spend too much time doing precisely what I’m doing here – prattling about it – and none actually trying to get the distinction recognised.
Invective on a postcard please.