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Is it Art? Is it Craft?

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“Is it Art? Is it Craft?”

Back in the 1980s I left California to work on Wall Street. One time
I was walking briskly to a client’s office when a display in front of
their building stopped me in my tracks. It was two huge cubes of
slightly rusted, crushed steel, one lying on the platform and the
other dangling above it at an angle.

Neither pretty nor ugly, it was just…odd. There was a plaque that
called the display “Shed Skin” and I decided the cubes were once old
cars that had been compacted at the city dump before becoming this

Nearby, a group of commuters had just disembarked from the Staten
Island Ferry. One man came up as I stared at the cubes and said to
me, “Izzit ott.”

I didn’t understand a word of it, and dumbly parrotted back, “‘Izzit

“Yeah,” he grinned. “Izzit junk or izzit ott?”


“Art is in the eyes of the beholder” nuttin’ more or less. What I
see in nature can be a wonderful sight ; Sunset, a flock of birds
flying in unison, a single flower catching the suns rays!

even an old car sitting in a parking lot…this is ART!..or even an
array of “sculptured” food on a plate before eating and consuming the
"chefs art"…yes, I do sometimes take pictures of these

We are given one of G-ds greatest gifts to mankind,…“our eyes”.
Most of us just look, but how many of us actually “see” HIS
WORKS?..when I take a picture, I just don’t “take” a picture…I
capture His Labours…thats what sets us apart from the animal world!

“Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!”

What a good story! It has me thinking about our cars as our “skin”,
part of the identity that we present to the world. Interesting. I
would be inclined to call this art as I think of art as language /
communication anyway. Then again “junk” speaks to me which is why a
friend would not hire me to work at his scrap yard at a very
difficult time in my life when any job would have helped. He knew I
could not bring myself to cut up all that I saw. Like tearing pages
out of a good book!

I am still debating what to do with the crushed, evaporated milk can
that I found along the road. Interesting shape and texture. Frame it
and call it " Michelined". $$$$$$. The language? I get days when I
feel like that can…

Thanks, you have made my day!

Bill Churlik

    I am still debating what to do with the crushed, evaporated
milk can that I found along the road. Interesting shape and
texture. Frame it and call it " Michelined". $$$$$$. 

Great idea, Bill. If you charge $50 for it, it’s a craft item.
Charge $5,000 and it’s art. And you don’t even need an MFA to do it.
Make sure you have somebody write a flowery artist’s statement,

James in SoFl

“Yeah,” he grinned. “Izzit junk or izzit ott?”

janet -

do we need to really, really understand ott, junk, shmaltz? frankly
i could never understand andy warhol’s white wig … ive

people, “art” (or ‘ott’ to close friends) called me the other day
from his favorite sidewalk cafe - said he doesn’t want to have to go
through all the gontzeh megillah of explaining himself again - his
message: “leave the analyzing, dissecting, or translating ‘ott’ to
those without talent, the art critics - ARTISTS, GO DO OTT!”

In the continuing discussion of art, craft, and what the
requirements are, I submit an excerpt from one of today’s (Friday,
March 18) news articles:

  HOUSTON - An art endowment will keep a Houston home decorated
  with thousands of flattened beer cans from facing its last

  Beer-lover John Milkovisch attached the cans to his house over
  a 20-year period as an alternative to more traditional home
  repair. He also made beer can fences and garlands to hang from
  his roof. 

  The home was becoming a nationally celebrated folk-art site
  when the Southern Pacific upholsterer died in 1988 at 75, but
  has suffered years of decline. Now, with a $125,000 Houston
  Endowment grant to the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art,
  efforts to restore the home are on the fast track. 

This is the best part, dear Orchidians - Mr. Milkovisch said that he
began using the cans to avoid painting, and is himself somewhat
surprised that it is considered “art.”

(read heavy sarcasm here, please) Maybe if he studied hard enough
for an MFA and went to work for the Orange Show Center for Visionary
Art, he may have understood. I think the $125,000 Houston Endowment
grant would have been more than enough to pay for it.

James in SoFl

    This is the best part, dear Orchidians - Mr. Milkovisch said
that he began using the cans to avoid painting, and is himself
somewhat surprised that it is considered "art." 

Oh, that’s too funny! Here he was trying to save money on painting

  • if he had only known he could have gotten $125,000 to save the free
    beer cans he had stuck to his house to avoid buying $60 worth of
    paint BEFORE he died!

Ahhh, but an ottist is never fully appreciated in his own


     Now, with a $125,000 Houston Endowment grant to the Orange
Show Center for Visionary Art, efforts to restore the home are on
the fast track. 

james -

did the article mention whether only the orange show center for
visionary art staff would be drinking the beer for the restoration
cans or will they ask for the public for volunteers? here are two of
my observations on the news release:

  1. if “Beer-lover John Milkovisch attached [that many] cans to his
    house over a 20-year period” those cans were not the only
    "flattened" things around that household -

  2. it’s a good bet that after milkovisch ingested all those beers
    the house wasn’t the only thing that “… suffered years of

james, thanks for the laugh of the day - ive

whose studio/workroom is still so much ‘in flux’ that were it to be
visited & graded by any committee such as the ‘Orange Show Center
for Visionary Art’ (prior to it emptying all those cans) it could
well kill all ‘art’ funding, especially the nea, before the
republicans succeed with one of their perennial bills that demand
"death to all art, artists, & all things the GOP doesn’t understand"
(which covers 90% of all that has been, or will be, written, spoken,
proven, fabricated, composed, created - whatever - since its role
model hero attila the hun held their first caucus.) oh, almost
forgot, ‘art’ called to say, with a prolonged sigh, “yes, i read the
article. beer cans! tres gauche! ah, but using empty wine bottles

On Craftsman, Jewelry, and Whatever…Musings…

A couple/three of decades ago…

I asked a friend to create a piece of jewelry for me…he was just
getting into fabricating jewelry…

He was a new jeweler…

I wanted a small pendant, a Yin-Yang, done in 14K…the dark would
be the open…

I’d find the chain…(he was not a chain maker)…

He charged me $100, which was maybe overpriced…(mind ya, long time

He even offered a decent price on another…the other of the sheet
half… Of the Yin or the Yang, depending upon how one looks at

Didn’t make any difference…I declined…didn’t have the $$, and


I told her…when I gave it to her…

I had it Made for You… And there is not another in the World,
that will ever be exactly the same…

Now…I have since seen numbers of the same kind of pendant…

None have that pedigree…

She also understands that……

Art…? She looks gorgeous when she wears it…(but I’m biased)…

Craft…? You tell me…

Jewelry?..without a doubt…

Oh hell, we’ve split up more or less since then… But she still
likes that pendant……

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)

James and Orchid,

Regarding beer-lover John Milkovisch and his beer can-covered house
in Houston – being an ole Texas gal, I can assure you that in Texas
it IS art.

His vision didn’t go far enough, was the problem. If he had only
strung some pistachios and threaded them among the beer cans, it
would have been considered art elsewhere as well, and Metalsmith
would have been knocking on his door.

Now: in all seriousness, out here in Berkeley there are people who
do much the same thing. They cover their trucks and cars with
cameras, found objects, stones, beach glass, plastic dolls,
anything. People stand around and stare at them with delighted
expressions and take pictures; the trucks and cars end up in the
newspaper. There is a house in Mendocino that is covered with
abalone shells and found objects. When I see these vehicles and
houses, I feel cheered up all day seeing how someone broke the rules
and created whimsical beauty. I can’t myself to say they are not
art of some kind. Are we just being snobbish about the beer cans?



Thanks for the input. Maybe I need to move the decimal points over a
bit on several pieces. $.$$ verses $$$$.$$. Not long ago I told a
story about an old spoon that I paid well under a dollar for, spent
much less than an hour cutting and bending, then sold for $80.00. Art
is fun!

I would like to hear more about the dollar relationship between
Craft and Art.

MFA. Does that mean Me Fine Artist?

Best wishes for a great day.

Bill Churlik

ART? the Canadian government (in their infinite wisdom) actually
paid $3,000,000+ for a wall sized canvass. It was painted in all red
and with a few bold white& yellow stripes running vertically…scuse
me?..:>) “Art is in the eyes of the beholder”,eh!

I could have done it cheaper with a few gallons of Home Depot
home-brand paint! LOL !Gerry, from north of the 49th parallel

LOL sell it to the national art Gallery of Canada and call it real
Art and maybe get 1.8 million (Canadian$) like they paid for this

3 stripes of paint on a canvas

Ok so call me a philistine


please don’t tell me I can make money on recreational drinking…

actually i am in the process of looking for a piece of food that
looks like a religious icon in some way…(remember the grilled
cheese sandwich , half eaten of course…) recently a girl was
paid 10,500 dollars for a pretzel that looks like the virgin mary (i
saw the pretzel and have a great imagination, but you know
what…NO, it looked like a mishapen pretzel.)

michaelangelo and davinci must be spinning in their graves.

-julia potts
julia potts studios

apropos wine bottles, check out:

Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718

The DIA Beacon in NY on the Hudson has an exhibition of Robert

A series of multi-sized canvases with white paint. That’s it. The
whole exhibit.

No, to me, this is not art.

However, this one exhibit should not sway intentions of not
attending this fine museum. The work is outstanding.


Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio

  Ahhh, but an ottist is never fully appreciated in his own

I agree that the beer can story is funny. But, perhaps inspired by
David Huffman, I think I may be about to prod the hornet’s nest with
a stick…

Do you folks think that a person must recognize what (s)he is doing
as art before it is art? Is it impossible that what this man did “to
save money” could not have been artfully done? Is it as ridiculous
as paying big money for the results of teaching an elephant to hold
a paintbrush? (See

I’m not settled on the answers to these questions. I haven’t seen
the house, so I’m not prepared to say. But I’m definately not
prepared to assume that it can’t be art because 1) the guy didn’t
think it was or 2) because it was beer cans. Go ahead, laugh me off
the forum!


     When I see these vehicles ... I feel cheered up all day
seeing how someone broke the rules and created whimsical beauty. 

mona - your observation of ‘eye-of-the-beholder-art’ & the cars
reminded me of when a friend, a painter, & i would describe the
latest weird vehicle we’d seen & decide whose was the
tackiest/weirdest. his candidate of a 70-something gas guzzler (he
said was so big it could have been parked & rented out as a
two-family duplex) either covered with green flocking (that’s the
fuzzy stuff that goes on christmas trees in white & on bordello
wallpaper in red) or had green velvet glued aaalllll over the body
with daisies ‘planted’ on the rear window ledge. his entry beat
mine: an articulated semi rig going south on i-95 with an almost
life sized creche scene on top of the cab. it wasn’t easy
suppressing images of northbound i-95 strewn with wrecked vehicles,
drivers slumped against windows, staring south with glazed eyes &
dazed expressions. yeah, art is indeed in the eyes of beholders, i
just wish some beholders would keep it in their eyes & not put it
out for public display.


who has never, contrary to rumors, drawn ‘sharpie’ mustaches,
eyeglasses & horns on black velvet paintings of elvis! (however,
pictures of jesse helms, tom delay & ‘w’ are fair game…)

A series of multi-sized canvases with white paint. That's it. The
whole exhibit. 

I spent this past weekend painting my kitchen. “Carribbean blue.” I
hadn’t considered the possibility that I was creating art, but
perhaps if I write a nice statement about how the color reminds me of
the houses in Bermuda, I too, can get a grant.

Nah. I’m sure I’d have to rip out a wall and send it to a gallery,
or something. And I really like my bright blue kitchen walls right
where they are.

I’m feeling a bit better about my general bewilderment whenever this
topic comes up, though. It appears I’m not alone in being confused
by the whole art vs. craft debate!


Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255

Twenty years ago this topic would have been oh so serious. So far
this thread has been, delightfully, the swapping of stories about how
vain and silly the art world has been. Has anyone noticed that news
about shocking art has been fading away over the past decade? Likewise
I believe that the status advantage that “artists” had over
"craftsmen" has been slowly evaporating also, while at the same time
the distinction between them is blurred.

Stephen Walker