TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  "Fine" and "applied" arts
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  08-01-2000 on 08:47 a.m.
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Dear Anyone,

Sam is critical of the distinction between "applied arts" (which includes rugs and other utilitarian objects) and "fine arts" (painting, sculpture, and such), seeing it as a vestige of an obsolete class system.

"Fine arts", that is, arts without a utilitarian role, are a fairly recent historical development. Prior to, say, the 15th century in western cultures all art was utilitarian (I include the arts found inside churches, ancient wall paintings, etc., as utilitarian in that they served specific purposes).

I think the distinction between the two categories of art is handy and logical, since it reflects the intentions of the creators of the works. It is unfortunate that the art forms that are not utilitarian are called "fine", since that word has a value judgement embedded in it. Perhaps things would look different to all of us if the categories were called "useful" and "useless" arts (yes, yes, I know; the "useless" arts do actually serve a purpose, but it really is different than that of the "useful" arts)!

Steve Price

Subject  :  RE: Why Art?
Author  :  Patrick+Weiler
Date  :  08-01-2000 on 10:06 a.m.
jpweil00@gte.net The "purpose" of all art and decoration is to embellish our surroundings. Whether utilitarian or not, a decorated surface is pleasant, comforting, stimulating or serene. The urge to acquire and appreciate art is probably a genetically induced response to survival at the most basic foundation of our existence. Even the poorest of the poor will scrape together a few scraps and decorate them. Arguments about whether fine or applied art is really art are only a way of differentiating among the varieties of art, not a determination of the validity of art. We all tend to get defensive about things that are important to us. It is really difficult to let those who feel otherwise malign the importance of that which we hold dear. So, I say rugs are art and to anyone who doesn't agree I will cut in front of them on the on-ramp, take 12 items into the 10 item line at the store and go slow in the fast lane! Patrick Weiler

Subject  :  RE: Purposes of art
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  08-01-2000 on 10:28 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Patrick, When we talk about the purpose of something, we also have to specify whose purpose it is. Consider a painting. It's fine art, by the usual definition. What is its purpose? To the artist who created it, there can be a number of purposes. Expression of some inner urge, fulfillment of a commission contract, and on and on. To the person who displays it on the wall, it can have a number of purposes, mostly not the same as that of the artist. Decoration, emotional impact, etc. None of them is "utilitarian" in the usual sense of the word. Hence, "useless" art. Now consider a Turkmen torba. To the weaver and her family, it's a container for something. You can just hear her say to the kid, "Cucuk! How many times must I tell you to put your dirty socks in the torba?" It's decorated, of course, and we can speculate on what that's all about, but it has a practical use to the creator. That's what makes it an example of "useful" art. To me, the current owner of the piece, that isn't its purpose at all. In fact, to me, it more or less serves the purpose that a painting does. The issue is a little more complicated than it appears at first, don't you agree? Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Stephen Louw
Date  :  08-01-2000 on 02:39 p.m.
Dear Steve, Following your last point: for me the issue is complicated, because although I no longer put my socks in my torba, or hang my asmalyk on the side of my camel at weddings, the fact that somebody once did adds to my appreciation of the artform. More generally, whilst I will never understand fully the cultural and symbolic context which originally gave meaning to the textile (or indeed, how the textile helped to reinforce and confirm extant cultural and symbolic discourse) the fact that it once did makes it different (for me) to non-utilitarian or fine art. Regards Stephen Louw slouw@global.co.za

Subject  :  RE:A Fine Mess
Author  :  Patrick+Weiler
Date  :  08-02-2000 on 10:01 a.m.
jpweil00@gte.net Steve, I agree, the distinctions are many between fine and applied art. Take, for example, the Rolls Royce that John Lennon had painted in psychedelic colors. Is that fine art, applied art or fine art applied to applied art? Why is so much "fine art" not very fine at all? Because is does not have to be? It has no utilitarian purpose other than to decorate. But if the purpose of fine art is to decorate, then the decorations on applied art, whose purpose is also decorative, is also art. Those who feel that the distinction is fundamental between "fine" art and "applied" art are only seeing the one step that fine art is removed from having been applied to a utilitarian object. Rug collectors have the added pleasure of immersion in the cultural context of the art they appreciate. I don't know how many owners of a Jackson Pollack can relate to the dissipation of the artist in order to appreciate the painting. Or how many owners of a Van Gogh can feel his psychological pain when looking at the results of his work. Not to mention that you can buy a lot of Salor main carpets for the price of a Pollack. Some people get defensive when the object of their appreciation is demeaned as being somehow not as worthy as "real" art. I guess those Red Skelton clown paintings are just Better somehow than rugs... Patrick Weiler

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