I Have Decided
I’m writing on my thesis and am in the process of inadequately articulating my process. I’ve reached the part where I talk about my aesthetic and had a decision to make: is it pottery or is it ceramics? It seems like a fairly simple question but for me, having done copious amounts of research on the conflict between art and craft, pottery and ceramics, and general confusion over what each term means, any considered response to that question is fraught with conflict. Using them interchangeably is possible but tends to lead to confusion. The other option, to pick one and stick with it, is easier and far more complicated. Whichever term I choose automatically puts me in a specific camp, defines my work, and puts me at odds with the other camp. It’s a conflict I would prefer to avoid at all costs. As far as I’m concerned my work can be described using any or all of those terms. I would be fine with it remaining undefined, as well. It’s my product, nothing more. Since I don’t have the luxury of saying, “I choose not to ascribe any of those terms to my work.” I have to take a stand; one that has the potential to unintentionally and without malice alienate an entire subgroup of makers.
Fortunately/Unfortunately, I have the tendency (ok, habit) of doing what I please consequences be damned. So I have chosen. In a nod to the snarky Damon Moon, who devoted one of his essays to the confusion of the terms ceramics and pottery, I have chosen to refer to my work as pottery. I’m sure that at some point, some artist/critic/knowledgable person will challenge me on my choice. I would like to ask, preemptively, does it matter? Is the word used to describe my work going to enhance, strictly define, legitimize, or negate my work? The answer is, of course, no, on all counts.
I am the first to argue that words matter and the words you choose can have a huge impact on how your thoughts are received. However, when it comes to art, words mean virtually nothing compared to the impact of the artwork itself. You can describe Klimt’s “The Kiss” in infinite detail, the sight of it, your reaction to it, and that description will convey a fraction of what “The Kiss” actually is. With art, seeing, truly seeing, is far more important than describing and defining. If you think about, “The Kiss” is just a painting. Paint applied to canvas in a systematic way to represent something- that’s all a painting is. But to see “The Kiss” is to see beauty, love, desire, sanctuary, and so much more. Experiencing art is to experience a synthesis of sight, thought, and emotion, each integral to the experience.
So “The Kiss” is just a painting and the hourglasses are just pottery. In the end, a work of art is more than the sum of it’s parts, a sum that takes into account nothing less than everything. Words are capable of describing everything. They are not always capable of accurately defining everything. Seeing is believing, a picture is worth a thousand words, words don’t do it justice- they’re clichés for a reason.
In my thesis I will use ‘pottery’ in reference to my work. In reality I will rely on clichés to avoid having to define it. With any luck, those clichés will also allow me to avoid joining the conflict of terms that continues in the art world. If that doesn’t work I will simply be myself- that tends to be sufficiently off-putting for most people.