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The murky line between crafting and fine art

by DIANE BARRON/Contributing writer
| May 17, 2024 1:00 AM

I fondly recall being in a country diner, where a dividing shelf was covered with little critters made of pom-poms, pipe cleaners and googly eyes. With these $5 wonders peering over at me, I began quietly shaking with laughter. If only one of my paintings could produce such comic relief! There was no murkiness here. This line was sharp! Sometimes it’s more difficult to make the distinction.

Crafts may be defined as skillfully handmade objects. They often follow a pattern, and may be functional. Knit socks and bird houses come to mind. There are kiddie crafts and just plain crappy crafts.

We’ve all done them. Making and sharing things is fun and admirable and there are amazing pieces as well.

Antique crafts have become highly valued and collectible, such as scrimshaw, tramp art and quilts. With expertise, the line becomes murkier. Among true craftspeople are jewelers who melt precious metals, set gemstones and skillfully form unique pieces. Potters who work their clay into huge vases with custom glazes and carvings have crossed the line.

Fine art is defined as that which is created for aesthetic and intellectual purposes. It has been called art for art’s sake. It’s judged by its beauty, meaningfulness and creativity. It shows highly developed skill, study and practice. 

Visual fine arts are mainly signified by paintings, drawings and sculptures. Can there be art that’s one of those that isn’t fine at all? Sure. Newcomers will struggle, but keep at it! 

When art movements emerged, they were initially rejected. Impressionism, cubism, surrealism and modern art dragged to acceptance. Esteemed galleries tread the line of showing traditional and regional art, which may bring in more revenue, and forward-trending art. An installation (a temporary exhibit set up in a gallery) may offend the viewer. The public may take issue, and ultimately their opinion speaks volumes.

No interest or sales … sayonara.

Vivian Farmer, association president, is primarily an acrylic, collage and abstract painter. She takes the collage aspect of her painting, and transfers it to jewelry making. 

Farmer states, “Some people call this steampunk. Blending broken pieces of jewelry, old coins, keys and hardware, I make whimsical, wearable pieces. They’re great conversation starters. I’m always looking for interesting, colorful stuff. It’s amazing what one can create from nothing! As in my abstract art, I just never know what kind of happy accident I’ll come up with.”

It’s magical watching Frank Gray work his oil paint, creating beautiful scenes. Images spring from his mind, and are reflections of where he has been. Sometimes he shifts to interests or history. Yes, he is a very fine artist!