top of page

The Pissoir Problem                            

©  Bruce Metcalf 

Here’s my nominee for the most influential piece of art of the twentieth century: a urinal. Not just any urinal, of course, but the one Marcel Duchamp signed “R. Mutt” and called “Fountain”. It’s an artworld icon: it anticipated the genre now called Conceptual Art by about fifty years. And it poses a nasty problem for craft.


Its history is well known: the story began when Duchamp bought a bicycle wheel and stuck it on a stool in 1913. At the time he made no special claim; he simply spun the wheel occasionally as the thing sat in his Paris studio. Next year, he bought a bottle rack. In 1916, after Duchamp moved to New York City, he wrote to his sister Suzanne to ask her to sign his name on the bottle rack, assigning it the status of “readymade” sculpture. All the while, this activity remained private, unannounced and unpublicized.


Meanwhile, in New York Duchamp and a number of other artists and aficionados founded the Society of Independent Artists, which was intended to be an exhibition society similar to the Parisian Salon des Indépendants.  The first exhibit was scheduled to open April 10, 1917. Anyone who paid $6 could exhibit two works. Even though Duchamp was a Director of the Society, he apparently didn’t like the organization, and decided to arrange a provocation. So he went to the J.L. Mott Ironworks in Brooklyn, bought an ordinary urinal, and submitted it for exhibition. (The urinal was a “flat-backed Bedfordshire”, reputed to be smelly and hard to clean.) Predictably, other members of the Society found “Fountain” to be “immoral, vulgar, and simply a piece of plumbing”, and refused to exhibit it. Duchamp and his friend Walter Arensberg promptly resigned from the Society. Beatrice Wood was apparently part of the enterprise, for she publicized the controversy in the second issue of Duchamp’s journal, The Blind Man. Meanwhile, the urinal was misplaced, found behind a partition, moved to Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery, photographed, purchased by Arensberg, and eventually lost. [i]


And so a revolution began as a prank. It’s not clear that Duchamp was entirely serious when he decided that he could assign the status of completed artwork to an ordinary object. And yet, in retrospect, this humble pissoir embodies several ideas that constitute a paradigm for contemporary art. Most notably, it inverted all the received rules of art making. Where high art was supposed to be ennobling, “Fountain” was strictly low-brow and crudely scatological; where art was supposed to be the result of much training and work, “Fountain” required no expertise; where the experience of art was supposed to be uplifting and pleasurable, “Fountain” presented a conundrum: how the hell could this thing be art? None of the conventional standards of artistic quality applied to Duchamp’s urinal: it’s one of the first and still probably the best example of anti-art. The idea that advanced art must be disruptive has stayed with us ever since.


Furthermore, “Fountain” didn’t require fabrication, it required thought. Whatever makes the urinal into art resides not in the object itself, but in what Duchamp is presumed to have thought about it. ( And, of course, what has been written about it ever since. ) There’s no painting here, no casting, no finishing, no messy and laborious craft. As Beatrice Wood wrote, “Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the Fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view -created a new thought for that object.”[ii]  In a single stroke, Duchamp elevated thinking to the essential ingredient of art, and simultaneously delegated the whole business of making to relative insignificance.


In fact, the object itself isn’t really necessary. “Fountain” is long lost; a grainy photograph taken by Stieglitz has been quite sufficient to change the course of art history.  Surely, every art student in the nation knows about the urinal. Duchamp himself authorized a series of signed reproductions in 1964, which have migrated to museums worldwide. In 1973, Elaine Sturtevant created a substitute original. Since then, Sherrie Levine, Mike Bidlo, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Tom Sachs, and many other artists have made similar homages. In one of those great ironies of history, Duchamp’s throw-away gesture now stands at the center of modern art:  analyzed, institutionalized, and glorified. For better or worse, the pissoir is legendary. “Fountain” became an icon because it summarizes the disruptive tendency of 20th century art, and because it so neatly foreshadows what is now known as Conceptual Art.


Marcel’s pissoir casts a long shadow. To any informed observer of the art world, it’s clear that Conceptual Art influences all aspects of current art practice, from performance art to contemporary craft. Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, Neo-Expressionism, Neo-Geo, Primary Image, Chaos theory and Abject Art all came and went. It seems the only authoritative approach left standing is Conceptual Art, an impression strongly reinforced by magazines like Contemporary Visual Arts  and by the curatorial vision of every Whitney Biennial in the past decade. Of course, the art schools have played along. Students across the country are now expected to explain and justify their ideas, and the graduate art programs most closely associated with rigorous theory are generally the most prestigious. [iii] And yet, for all its influence, it’s not terribly clear what conceptual art actually is.


The artist-philosopher Adrian Piper has offered a comprehensive and persuasive definition.  Writing about artist Ian Burn, Piper suggests that Conceptual art need not have a particular style, and stresses that it doesn’t always replace the art object with written or spoken language. Instead, she examines Sol Lewitt’s proposition that “... the idea or concept is more important than the object in which it’s realized.” Piper says that Lewitt was taking

“...a Platonic view, that the concept of a particular work - any work, be it sculpture, drawing, text, videotape, whatever you like - is a kind of perfect form to which the realization, the actual work itself, is just an imperfect approximation. Just as Plato distinguished between sensory reality and the world of pure forms, similarly Sol, I think, meant to distinguish an actual art object as a sort of crude sensory approximation of an idea, a concept, that can exist only in the intellect; and then to say that it’s the idea, the pure concept of the object, that’s important.[iv]”

Piper notes how liberating this notion of Conceptual art was because it opened all types of intellectual inquiry to artists: social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, whatever. Furthermore, any medium was permissible, for ideas can be made manifest in any material imaginable. But Piper is adamant that Conceptual art still demands a hierarchy. As she puts it, “ I propose we think of Conceptual art... as being art that subordinates its medium, whatever its medium, to intellectually interesting ideas.”[v]


The implications of Piper’s formulation are profound. Obviously, she does not exclude the possibility of Conceptual craft. But, at the same time, she says that the idea must be more important than any other aspect of the artwork. Material, technique, formal qualities, function, or any other aspect of artwork that cannot be construed as an idea must be less important. According to Piper, if the idea is primary, the medium is subordinated. And the secondary status of medium is important, because the idea must necessarily dictate the medium: the artist should choose whatever material or form that best expresses or communicates the idea. Thus, mediums should change to accommodate different ideas. If the idea takes primary importance, the medium must be disposable. Piper’s Conceptual artist can not be loyal to her medium: she will unhesitatingly sacrifice the medium if her idea demands it.  In effect, Piper has proposed a doctrine of disposable medium, which I will return to later.


Piper’s definition reinforces Arthur Danto’s thesis, which he first advanced in “The Transfiguration of the Commonplace” ( 1981 ) and has refined ever since. According to Danto, art is embodied meaning.[vi] Danto arrived at his formulation after seeing Andy Warhol’s “Brillo Box”  in 1964. ( “Fountain” would have sufficed, but it’s possible that in 1964 Danto had never heard of it. ) He was fascinated by the apparent lack of distinction between a real Brillo box and Warhol’s sculpture.  Presumably, this lack of visible difference threw all previous art theories out of whack, because all those theories relied upon the visual phenomena particular to painting and sculpture, to draw the line between art and the rest of reality. So, what made “Brillo Box” into art? According to Danto, it was because Warhol’s box embodied a specific set of meanings, while the supermarket box did not. These meanings would be legible inside a community of like-minded individuals, which Danto called the “art world”.


If Danto’s thesis is accepted, the exact form of art can no longer be qualified in advance. As Danto says, “Art can be anything at all.”[vii] In any realistic assessment of art of the last forty years, it’s pretty clear that the art world acts as if Danto’s thesis is true. Art can be a urinal; art can look like a Brillo box; art can consist of walking around a gallery with your face painted gold, explaining paintings to a dead rabbit. This is the reality of the art world, and it’s tough to argue against reality. The medium, the form, the duration of art: all is now mutable and open for exploration. The only remaining qualification is that art should embody meaning.


Danto’s thesis dovetails nicely with Piper’s definition: art is embodied meaning; conceptual art subordinates its medium to ideas. One could even stretch Danto’s thesis a little, and suggest that all interesting art IS conceptual art. ( In fact, Danto used to suggest that art should transform itself into pure philosophy, but he has lately disavowed that notion. )


I would argue that Art-with-a-capital-A, art that makes it into art magazines and big art museums, art that smells of the present instead of the past – all this art is synonymous with Conceptual art. Given the infinite mutability of art today, how can it be otherwise? In order to interpret this vast range of enterprises, the only net that can encompass everything is theory, idea, embodied meaning. Otherwise, how do you tell Duchamp’s pissoir from those things in the men’s room? It’s the concept, and the concept alone, that draws the distinction. After all, you wouldn’t want to pee into an icon of modern art, would you?


*                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *


For the past 140 years, craftspeople and their supporters have agitated for equality between craft and art. This has been called the “art/craft debate”. In the craft world ( a term that I use as an exact parallel to Danto’s “art world” ), most people seem to have assumed that craft can be art, and that no further discussion is needed. Everybody says the art-craft debate is tiresome and meaningless. In Universities and art schools, one can study “fiber arts” and “metal arts”. Publishers certify the equivalence of craft and art by titling books about crafts The Art of Craft , Art that Works,  or American Art Jewelry Today. I recall an entire conference devoted to the presumption that craft had effectively become art: it was called “Crossover”, which called up images of pottery and furniture and jewelry jumping across some line in the sand, finally becoming real art. The battle is won, the fuss is over, and craftspeople can sleep easily at night, knowing they have breached the walls of the golden gated city.


And yet, I’m not so sure. I maintain that craft and art are two different things, and that they are not fully commensurate. By this, I mean that craft and art are two largely different practices, with largely different boundaries, and each with a  different “...yardstick of critical assessment in social and artistic spaces”[viii]. My argument revolves around two questions implicitly posed by Danto and Piper. First, can craft be anything at all? Secondly, can craft truly subordinate its medium to intellectually interesting ideas? In other words, how does craft measure up to Duchamp’s urinal?


*                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *


There are several meanings for the word “craft” in the modern era. One sense of the word points to skillful labor of any kind, as in the skill of playing a violin or the craft of welding. Craft also can suggest a class of objects, and is used this way in American Craft Museum  or British Craft Council.  I use the word in this second sense. However, it’s not a precise category.


Craft is very fuzzy around the edges: there’s no clear line between craft and not-craft. I think craft-as-a-class-of-objects must be seem in terms of degree, rather than a matter of black and white. First of all, craft must be an object, a real thing of weight and substance. Secondly, these objects must necessarily be made largely by hand. While observers in the twentieth century accept the use of machines in craft production ( such as table saws or power rolling mills ), objects made substantially by machines ( like computers ) or on assembly lines ( like athletic shoes ) do not usually qualify as craft. Craft can also be identified by an accumulation of four other factors. These are: 1. the use of traditional craft mediums ( like clay, glass, or fiber ); 2. the use of traditional hand technologies associated with such mediums ( like throwing clay, blowing glass, or raising metal ); 3. the use of traditional craft functions ( like jewelry, pottery, or furniture ); and 4. reference to the history of craft objects themselves ( like Sung Dynasty ceramic vases, or Coptic textiles ). This list of four factors serves as a checklist for degrees of “craftness”: the more an object incorporates of the list, the more craft ( as-class-of-object ) it is.


(An aside: I should point out that function is not on my list. For any number of reasons, observers have seen craft’s usefulness as central to its definition.[ix] And yet, even a cursory study of historical craft objects shows that function was never a central defining characteristic: think of textiles woven only for display; of massive silver centerpieces made only to be seen; or of whimsies created by craftspeople after the workday was through, like the blown glass bells made in the Ohio valley glass factories. And, of course, uselessness is a signature of most contemporary craft that aspires to the status of art.)


Discerning shades of craftness is accurate and useful. After all, one of the central enterprises in contemporary craft has been expanding the traditional boundaries. Craftspeople have employed new materials like plastics and synthetic fibers, along with non-traditional technologies like electroforming and computer-aided machining. Similarly, many craftspeople make sculptures ( although this is not new at all ), and many craft objects do not refer to historical material. The resulting objects have been widely understood to be craft, as in Stanley Lechtzin’s acrylic and copper electroform torques, or Lenore Tawney’s “Cloud Series” of architectural installations.  At the same time, some craftspeople have remained committed to very traditional materials, techniques, and usages. Pure pottery remains a vigorous part of modern ceramics, just as Windsor chair-makers and Harris tweed weavers continue to thrive.


However, my formula of two basic criteria + four additional factors suggests an important conclusion: craft has limits. Some things just aren’t craft.


For instance, Clark and Hughto show a photograph in their book, A Century of Ceramics in the United States 1878 -1978.[x]  It’s Jim Merlchert’s claywork, called “Changes”, in which the participants dunked their heads in clay slip, and then were videotaped while the slip dried at different rates. The piece typified many of the concerns of avant-garde artists at the time: making artwork that was ephemeral and thus difficult to commodify; using the body of the artist as raw material; or incorporating duration and transience as necessary parts of the work. “Changes” is a performance, with clear aspirations to be understood as high art. The only possible connection to craft is the use of slip, but it’s a tenuous connection indeed. Otherwise, hand fabrication is not employed. Nor are any traditional ways of manipulating clay, nor is there any reference to ceramic history. It’s not even an object. In the end, I fail to see how this performance is craft in any meaningful way. It might be art, but it’s not craft.


A lot of other things aren’t craft either, from Nike® athletic shoes to exercising a dog. Or, from painting on canvas to Bill Viola’s installations. My point is this: in response to Danto’s implicit question “Can craft be anything at all?” the answer is no. Craft cannot fully partake of contemporary art’s infinite expansion into all aspects of life. While Duchamp and his followers could point to absolutely anything and declare it to be a Readymade work of art, the same maneuver cannot be accomplished in craft. Craft is a limited field. Crafts have to be made, crafts have to be objects, and crafts usually must have some connection to traditional materials, techniques, and histories. Being necessarily limited, craft is thus not fully commensurable with art. It is philosophically different. Like it or not, craft and art are somewhat different things.


The question implicitly posed by Piper’s definition of conceptual art offers a further illumination. If art (specifically conceptual art) and craft were truly interchangeable, craft could “subordinate its medium, whatever its medium, to intellectually interesting ideas.” Craft practitioners would then serve one and only one master: the idea. However, it’s my contention that the primary cause in craft practice is the labor, not the idea.


I come to this conclusion from extended observation of craft education and culture. It’s no secret that the majority of present-day craft practitioners were first exposed to their craft in an educational institution. As a teacher for the past 22 years, I have watched hundreds of perfectly ordinary students walk into teaching studios. Some students - not all - awaken. They discover something that changes their lives, and a few go on to make a lifelong commitment to their chosen discipline. I am absolutely convinced that this awakening is to the working of a material, and not to “intellectually interesting ideas”. Students respond first and foremost to the material in their hands.


Most crafts teachers realize that students intuitively gravitate to particular a studio: there are clay people, fiber people, metals people, glass people. Some students recognize an affinity to a one material, and these are the ones who major in the subject. I suspect that this process of discovery is closely linked to “bodily - kinesthetic intelligence”, the aspect of mind that controls both fine and gross motor skills.[xi] What we used to call talent may be a genetic predisposition to respond to certain basic materials. This predisposition appears both as a fascination with, and a gift for working in a particular material.  I think every jeweler will understand precisely what I mean here, for they have experienced the same thrill of recognition themselves. While my proposition may seem far-fetched at first, consider that everyone assumes that both Einstein and Stravinski were gifted. Only a few individuals will show a talent for mathematics, or for music. Similarly, only a few will show a genuine aptitude for any craft medium, and these talents are most likely genetically endowed, not just learned.


An awakening to the possibilities of working a particular material is only the beginning. In a sense, all mature craftspeople have served an apprenticeship: they spent years learning how to control their chosen medium. The learning process is slow, sometimes tedious, and often difficult. The individual who endures the apprenticeship used to be called a master, but I think Peter Dormer’s idea of tacit knowledge is more useful.[xii] Tacit knowledge comes only from practical, hands-on experience, and cannot be learned simply by reading or recitation. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to solder with confidence, how to blow a thin glass vessel, or how to cut a perfect dovetail. This knowledge resides in the person, and recent research suggests that it consists of permanently altered neural pathways. In effect, it’s equivalent to the first definition of craft that I offered: skillful labor.


Tacit knowledge can have an emotional component. Skilled work brings its own pleasures, often experienced as contentment and an altered brain wave pattern[xiii]. More importantly, I think, is the fact that craftspeople often develop an intense loyalty to their chosen medium. Their identities are completely wrapped up in their work: Kurt Matzdorf is utterly dedicated to silversmithing; Jack Troy lives, eats and breathes pottery. It’s difficult to describe the profound commitment that some men and women feel for their craft, but an extended conversation with any one of them will reveal how deeply loyal they are. It’s as if the difficulty of mastering the craft is rewarded by internalization: not just the skill, but also a sense of attachment, historical place, and an urge to pass the knowledge along to younger generations. In an era when we expect youths to be alienated and adults to despise their jobs, the voluntary loyalty devoted to craft is quite remarkable.


Most of those men and women who make jewelry or weaving or ceramics into their life’s work, never give it up. I take this extraordinary dedication as evidence that the craft - the tacit knowledge and the emotional attachment to it - precedes all other considerations for the craftsperson. To paraphrase Adrian Piper, I propose we think of the craftsperson as being a maker of objects who will not subordinate his or her medium, whatever the medium, to intellectually interesting ideas. I believe that loyalty to medium is a basic characteristic of craft culture.  And as such, loyalty to medium defines a fault line between art culture and craft culture. Recall Piper’s implicit doctrine that medium must be disposable, and compare it with the loyalty of the craftsperson to medium. As concepts, they are mutually exclusive: one can subordinate medium to idea, or idea to medium, but not both.


I should make one point clear: this definition does not exclude craftspeople from engaging ideas. Far from it. But it does clarify an essential part of craft culture: many people won’t give up the craft they have labored so long to acquire. Their emotional commitment wouldn’t allow for it.


( As I write this, I can already hear the complaints, so I offer three clarifications. First, by drawing this distinction, I am not making a qualitative judgment: I adamantly do not think that being an artist is better than being a craftsperson. I am proposing a clear difference. Second, this proposal applies to mature practitioners, not to students who have not yet made a commitment to a life in craft. And third, a craftsperson’s loyalty can extend beyond a specific medium, to include a sense of craftsmanship that can apply to more than one craft discipline. )


In contemporary crafts, the idea of making Art-with-a-capital-A is tremendously attractive. When I ask my undergraduate students what they are, every single one answers, “Artist.” This is not surprising: they attend an art school; their teachers generally call themselves artists; and the idea of being an artist is far more prestigious and respectable than being a craftsperson. There are thousands who think that the only proper ambition for a craftsperson is to become an artist. So, everyone agrees. It’s “art jewelry”, “fiber art”, “art furniture”, and “art glass”. The problem is, if craft is really art, it must be compared to all the art that’s out there.  Those people who claim to be making art/craft have a lot of explaining to do. Art/craft must be held up to twentieth century theory, because art is inescapably bound to its discourses. In the present environment, when art is almost synonymous with conceptual art, craft must stand next to Duchamp’s pissoir, and answer for itself.


The answer says more about craft’s difference than it’s similarity. Craft can’t be anything at all, and thus craft is not fully commensurable with the broadest conceptions of art. Furthermore, craft is permeated by the loyalty of its makers to material and process. In my opinion, any attempt to offer a persuasive argument for craft in the new millennium must take these two properties into account.


My argument depends on the assumption that there is no middle ground – that there is no intellectually rigorous artform that can also insist on loyalty to a medium. The case of painting is instructive. For the last 30 years, painting has been subject to intense scrutiny. Painters have been called upon to justify the continued use of a pre-industrial technology and, in some cases, a demanding skill. The question goes something like this: is painting a better medium for the communication of ideas than any other? I can think of no persuasive explanation that was advanced, and nobody has shown that applying paint by hand to a substrate is any more ( or any less ) suitable as an art medium. Generally, painting is now seen as one option among many. And the idea of loyalty to painting remains unexplained, even when it is raised. The upshot is that painting, in a delicious irony, has been demoted from its former status as “queen of the arts”, and the discipline has become rather marginalized. ( Almost like a craft! )  Painting now seems to be perceived as a way to generate fantastic images, as in the weird women of Lisa Yuskavage, or a vehicle for fey gestures like Damien Hirst’s spin paintings. In either case, commentary focuses on the concepts that are embodied in the images, not on the possibility that the paintings have any particular characteristic that could be manifested only by the process of painting. So, for the moment, the literature suggests that the artworld finds any middle ground highly suspect.


*                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *       


So, every craft practitioner faces a choice: What comes first? Does one follow the prescription of Adrian Piper, and put intellectually interesting ideas in first place? Or does one remain loyal to their chosen material and techniques? Which one is sacrificed?


I believe the majority of art/craft practitioners want to have it both ways. They want to appeal to the intellectual rigor of art discourse, but without having to submit to it themselves. The quandary posed by Adrian Piper remains unsolved: if you truly practice a Conceptual art - which is to say, any theoretically persuasive art in the present artworld environment - then you must answer the question, “Would you subordinate your medium to interesting ideas?” Avoiding the question makes the practitioner appear wishy-washy, wanting to have her cake and eat it too.


Anne Wilson presents a case study of a craftswoman who confronted Piper’s question. Wilson came from a fiber arts background. She learned how to weave and dye and stitch, and she is an authority on ethnic clothing traditions. Her work made it to the cover of American Craft [xiv], affirming her prominence in the craft world. But her interest in one material, hair, eventually led her to discard the techniques and formats typical of craft. Wilson’s recent collaborative installation ( with A. B. Forster ), called “Told and Retold: an inquiry about hair”, is not craft in any meaningful sense. Its form, execution, range of reference, and ambition clearly announce it as art. When presented with the choice between idea or medium, she gave up her loyalty to craft. I imagine that she would have no argument with Piper. She calls herself an artist[xv], and I’m convinced.


However, Piper’s question can be answered another way: one can refuse to subordinate medium to idea. I believe this is the craftperson’s choice, and it has its own integrity. One can assert one’s loyalty to a medium, and proceed to adjust or modify ideas to fit the medium. Furthermore, such loyalty is both intellectually honest and usually visible in the work.


One of the many craftspeople who made this choice was the jeweler Richard Reinhardt. In a retrospective exhibition of his silver work[xvi], I could easily detect his respect for his medium. His craftsmanship was superb, and his forms were developed directly from the process of fabricating them. Each piece would move with its wearer, but they were never intrusive on the body. Reinhardt’s restless curiosity about form, reflectiveness, linkages, and motion was obvious. It was wonderful jewelry, even though Reinhardt wasn’t terribly concerned that his jewelry be seen as Art. In the end, all of Reinhardt’s work was emphatically craft, and none the worse for it.


Reinhardt tailored his ambitions to his medium. I don’t think it’s any insult to his memory to say that his jewelry cannot be compared at every level with art as Piper and Danto conceive it. While the jewelry clearly embodies Reinhardt’s attitudes toward his craft, his clients, and his sense of responsibility as a citizen of the modern world, the objects cannot be seen as Conceptual art. They are not as scholarly as Piper might demand, nor do they trade in theory. To me, Reinhardt’s jewelry was so much an object, and so clearly evident of his concern for his craft, that Piper’s “pure concept of the object” had only a secondary value. Reinhardt illustrates the philosophical difference between craft and art. He was a craftsman, and a good one. Again, I was convinced.


But these days, everybody wants to be an artist. To the degree that craft intends to take a place alongside of art, craftspeople must assemble a cogent explanation of what craft is, and why. If craft and art are not fully commensurate, as I claim, then this explanation must focus on the differences between craft and art, not their similarities. Those similarities ( formal qualities, theoretical stances, etc. ) cannot explain why a craftsperson should choose to limit her creative project to a particular medium, nor do they explain the profound emotional bond that experienced practitioners feel for their work. Until these differences are explained, the legitimacy of craft will continue to be questioned. And once we understand exactly how craft and art are not fully commensurate, then we can make persuasive claims for the place and purpose of craft as a distinct creative enterprise.


Bruce Metcalf is a jeweler and occasional writer on craft. His next article for Metalsmith  will propose a theory of craft.


[i]This history was taken from three sources: Varendoe and Gopnik, High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, Museum of Modern Art, 1990;  Naumann with Venn, Making Mischief: Dada Invades New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1996; and Mink, Marcel Duchamp 1887 - 1968: Art as Anti-Art,  Taschen, 1995.

[ii]The Blind Man, No. 2, May 1917.

[iii]Among them: UCLA in visual art, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in fiber arts, and SUNY New Paltz and Cranbrook in jewelry/metals. For a sceptical view, see “How to Succeed in Art” by Deborah Soloman, in The New York Times Magazine, June 27, 1999.

[iv] Piper, Adrian, “Ian Burn’s Conceptualism”, Art in America, December, 1997, p. 74.

[v] Ibid. p. 75.

[vi]For a brief summary of Danto’s thesis, see his introduction to Embodied Meanings: Critical Essays and Aesthetic Meditations, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1994.

[vii] Witnessed by the author at a speech by Danto at the University of the Arts.

[viii]from an essay in which Danto raises the issue of commensurabilitry: “Quality and Inequality”, in Embodied Meanings, page 340.

[ix]For a recent example, see Howard Risatti’s essay “Metaphysical implications of function, material, and technique in craft” in Skilled Work: American craft in the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1998.

[x]Published by E.P. Dutton in 1979. The picture is on page 207, accompanying text on 198.

[xi]See Gardner, Howard, Frames of Mind, Basic Books, 1983. For a more detailed exploration of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence and its implications for craft theory, see the author’s chapter “Craft and Art, Culture and Biology” in Dormer, Peter ( editor ), The Culture of Craft, Manchester University Press, 1997

[xii]Dormer, “Craft and the Turing Test for practical thinking”, Ibid. p.137

[xiii]See Csikszentmihalyi, Mihael, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Harper, 1993. Among jewelers, Carrie Adell has been a strong advocate for the transformative power of absorbed work.

[xiv]Spector, Buzz, “Anne Wilson: Urban Furs”, American Craft,  February/March 1988.

[xv]In conversation with the author, March 27,1999.

[xvi]“Richard Reinhardt: Full Circle”, Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, March 20 - May 8, 1998.

bottom of page