The Fitful Flog

October 12, 2006

Arts and/or Crafts

Hokusai - Magician and HeronLike many folders, I’m a bit touchy about terms like Art and craft. It’s not the pretension that bugs me – hell, I’m all about pretension – it’s the cynical hypothesis that if the idea can be controlled with words, the idea can make money for the right people. Yes, this works, but only by abusing the language and the law. A letter I wrote to the paper recently.

[ Originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on: Friday, October 06, 2006 ]

To the editor: I was delighted to read about the City Council’s decision to allow artists to sell their creations on our sidewalks (Gazette, Sept. 28).

As the Heresy Collective and attorney William Newman demonstrated, this is both good sense and good constitutional law, two things growing increasingly rare in our lives these days.

However, I was greatly troubled to see that the council seeks to make a distinction between the ”fine arts” and ”crafts or decorative arts.” While Robert Reckman of the [Department of Public Works] feels this line can be drawn very easily, the judge in the case cited does not seem to share his optimism. I certainly do not.

”What is art?” is a question for ardent college sophomores, not for elected officials or civil servants. To pretend otherwise is to out-Colbert Colbert and to declare some forms of expressions ”speechier” than other forms. Absurdity. A political body, whether elected, appointed or ordained, has no more moral or constitutional authority to draw such arbitrary lines than it has to evaluate the validity of a sacrament or to determine the weight of angels on the moon.

Let the invisible hand of the market decide what will sell and what will not. Leave the questions about what is art and what is mere ”crafts or decorative arts” to posterity.

Philip Chapman-Bell
Northampton

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3 Responses to “Arts and/or Crafts”

  1. 1
    Mélisande Says:

    Haha, well written, thanks for sharing it.

    What is the meaning of pretension with “s” ?
    An alliteration, a metaphor, a verbal pyrotechnic that is over my head ?

  2. 2
    oschene Says:

    An interesting question, the more so because other words from the same root use t, like pretentiousness. I’m guessing that it’s because the people who taught our ancestors French didn’t speak it very well and couldn’t spell worth beans. Plus, English spelling did not get regularized until the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Yesterday was Noah Webster‘s birthday – he was one of the founders of my college and a great American grammarian – it was he who first decided we didn’t need to follow British spelling or usage rules, a bold idea. What to do with the -tion ending was a hot topic in those days. I suspect the -sion in pretension was some kind of compromise move.

  3. 3
    Thomas Says:

    What’s with all the complex words? I had to read this three times before I could understand it.
    BTY, This site has some of the most artistic and original models I have ever seen.

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