I just got back from Minneapolis, where I had the pleasure of attending the American Craft Council's "Creating a New Craft Culture" conference. Three days of debating the ins and outs of craft with my fellow makers, writers and thinkers was pure bliss. Outsiders would find it hard to believe that crafters could be as catty and contentious as they are. The main thread running through the conference was the reconciling of the previous generations of studio crafters with the ultra-blurry new generation of DIY/Indie/conceptual crafters. All in all, I'd say the Craft Council took a step in the right direction.
The Craft Council's magazine, American Craft has been taking steps in the right direction for a couple of years now. Under previous editor Andrew Wagner, they redesigned the magazine under the watchful eye of design genius Jeanette Abbink. After Andrew Wagner's departure for Readymade Magazine, Janet Koplos, who was previously an editor at Art in America, is the magazine's current editor. She continues to hire interesting new writers and feature crafters who push the envelope.
The new issue might be my favorite issue since the redesign. The cover is devoted to Lauren Kalman, a jeweler/sculptor/performance artist who is devoted to exploring the idea of body ornament as affliction. She first made a splash with her graduate thesis show at Ohio State University, "Hard Wear ", which has shown at multiple venues since she graduated. That show contained a mix of objects, video, photographs and performance that feels engaged and appropriate, rather than strained.
Kalman has opened up a rich vein (there's a pun in there somewhere) with her jewelry. Beauty has always been a central theme in metals, as is the body. Her work extends the concept of embellishment into the world of affliction. What is a syphilitic sore but a badge of experience? What is acne but evidence of the body's attempt at self-regulation? Every jewelry lover (well...maybe just the self-aware ones) is locked into a struggle between taste, vanity and budget that mirrors the struggles we all have with health and body issues.
Gabriel Craig of Conceptual Metalsmithing wrote the article in the current issue of American Craft, and does a better job of delving into the specifics of Kalman's art than I can, so I'll leave you to explore his article. Gabriel was featured in April/May issue of the magazine. If you con't have a copy of the new issue, you can find a PDF of the entire article on Gabriel's site.
You should also delve into Lauren Kalman's website, which has plenty of examples of her various bodies of work. In the coming days, I'm hoping to have some time to unpack my thoughts on the conference.
LINK to American Craft Magazine
LINK to Lauren Kalman's website.