WTF — “Craft” by William Dolan

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WTF is a periodic rant about an ill of the art world, one of humankind’s most screwed-up endeavors.

It can be interesting, inspiring and enriching to see the sketches, trials and, the mock-ups of an artist. The rough and awkward sketches on kraft or scrap paper can tell a lot of how an artist came to painting that finished masterpiece. Automobile designer Dick Teague sketched the Pacer on a barf bag while on a business flight. Many great things start out as an idea sketched or outlined on a bar napkin. I love looking at rough stages of anything.

Unfortunately, too much art stops here. Today, paintings are rough (and sometimes crappy) sketches on construction paper, wrinkled from the paper that unevenly shrinks as the paint dries. They are then push-pinned to the gallery wall as a finished piece. Installations are made of unfinished scrap wood, slapped together. Sculpture is cut out of cardboard boxes and taped together with duct tape. A lot of art ends up looking like some sort of day camp project. The “bar napkin” has become the finished piece.

For some reason, the art world really responds to work that seems to be slapped together as opposed to fully executed…something that looks polished. Though a piece that is quickly put-together shows an immediate connection to the idea, it just doesn’t seem finished…something is missing.

The word “craft” has connotations of “arts and craft”…hobbyists in a park district field house making pots. If you ask me, dashed off quick sketches on torn construction paper makes me think of “craft.” Would it be so bad to take those drawings to the next level? Probably, because today it would be received as out-dated and old fashioned. I think it’s time for a new trend.