About Craft Nouveau
Craft Nouveau is Blue Line Arts' biennial juried fine craft competition, open to artists internationally. The exhibition seeks to spark dialogue on traditional delineations between fine craft and art, and highlight mediums and processes typically associated with craft.
“Craft,” as a category of making, defies tight definitions. Fluctuating easily between noun and verb, craft may be loosely defined by materials and processes. On the noun side, craft usually utilizes materials like glass, clay, wood, paper, fiber, and metal. On the verb side, these materials are manipulated by processes like flameworking, weaving, casting, slab building, or carving. The works chosen for Craft Nouveau at Blue Line Arts all build upon this traditional definition of craft, while incorporating contemporary issues and unique visual languages.
In the past, the perception of certain materials, processes, and styles rooted in craft as “women’s work” or work of the home caused them to be absent or footnoted from the cultural record of fine arts–reinforcing a devaluation of the materials and subjects explored in the work. Several artists selected for Craft Nouveau embed this political dimension of craft within their chosen materials and processes. Douglas Dale’s Cross Stitch (2020) and Landscape (2021), for example, delicately trace the grain of wood panels with yarn, flattening the differences between the two craft materials and mixing the masculine codification of wood with a feminine approach to fiber that alludes to corsetry and handcraft.
Douglas Dale, Cross Stitch
Embedded within the pandemic, climate change, and the tireless work of activists toward equality, the last few years have been both inspiring and harrowing. Craft is uniquely positioned to respond to these issues, as in the words of curator and writer Glenn Adamson, “the technical, embodied reality of craft can be a way to show commitment, and provide an enduring context for statements that might otherwise feel ungrounded.”
Working within the visual language of the pandemic and health care, Terri Grant’s impossibly realistic Fall Down Seven Stand Up Eight (2020) is a band-aid made of glass and gold foil. Blown up to gigantic proportions, the piece seems to recognize the severity of our need for healing in the tumultuous year it was created. The artist, a former physician, draws upon the similarities between her chosen medium and the human body: the combination of strength and fragility, the malleability of the skin and of hot glass.
Terri Grant, Fall Down Seven Stand Up Eight
Unfortunately, this artwork is not currently on display due to damage incurred during shipping.
Many works reflect upon ecology and climate change. Mel Smothers brings wood, charred from 2021’s Caldor Fire, into a conversation with art history by placing them atop a replica of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes. Thinking through consumerism and its impact on the environment, the artist hopes to use his The Climes Are A Changin’ series to bring about conversation on climate change.
Striking despite their demure size, Amy Stephens recreates common bits of household plastic (pull tabs, zip ties, bread tabs) into fine silver. Pairing the original plastics with their shiny counterparts makes clear the little regard we pay to these bits of plastic which will last on this planet far longer than we will.
The slow process of making stops at many junctures along its journey: inquiry, exploration, contemplation, repetition, and joy. The range of materials, processes, and lines of questioning posed by the work in 2022’s edition of Craft Nouveau weave easily together to offer a new and novel redefinition of craft.
– Ariel Zaccheo
Mel Smothers,The Climes Are A Changin'
About the Juror
Ariel Zaccheo is a curator and writer working in San Francisco. She is the Curator of the Museum of Craft and Design and co-curator of Artist’s Television Access (ATA) Window Gallery. She has served on ATA’s Board of Directors since 2020.
Her research focuses on contemporary craft applied to queer and feminist studies. Her writing has been published in Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles (2020, 2021), American Craft Magazine (2020), Surface Design Journal (2018, 2020), Fiber Art Network (2020), and Art Practical (2018). She has served as a juror for Bridging the Gap: Contemporary Craft Practices at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Gatlinburg, TN, 2019) and Ingenuity at Marin Society of Artists Gallery (Marin, CA, 2018).