Artisan This

Artisan Tostitos? Seriously?

I’m thinking of a new advertising slogan: Artisan Art. In a world where one can buy Artisan Bread, Artisan Cheese, and mass-produced Artisan Tortilla Chips,the term “artisan” has been devalued. May as well jump right in.

During the Renaissance, the individuality of the artist was not of particular importance—he was celebrated for his competence at composition, drafting and rendering.(The outlier in this was Rembrandt, who did not in fact achieve his greatest fame until his rediscovery in the 19th century.) With the Industrial Revolution, the expressive aspects of art became more valued. This trend accelerated with the convulsive wars that engulfed the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mechanized death is the ultimate dehumanizer; in response we sought the very personal in art.
By the middle of the twentieth century, the artist’s personal expression, his mark-making, and his subjective viewpoint were paramount. We have now swung back a little from that place, but until the world stops being a machine, the artist will never again hide behind a perfectly-realized technique.
 Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle. In the old days, we called this “cooking.”
That’s true in the fine arts, but is it true in craft? I think so. The proliferation of the term artisan reflects a general longing for hand-craft. My friend Jane Bartlettis both an artist (when she dyes fabrics) and an artisan (when she assembles those fabrics into wearable garments).
But the term is somehow cheapened when applied to routine competence. To draw a distinction between two bagel shops because one has “artisans” boiling their bagels and one has bakers boiling their bagels is just plain silly.

Join me in October, 2013 at Lakewatch Manor—which is selling out fast—or let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!