The Value of Art

Marianne Carlson

What does the future hold for Mexican folk art? Only time will tell. But does it not seem likely that potters will abandon gathering their own clay from the earth, having to pulverize and process it by hand, when commercial clays are available? That artists who use the traditional stiff brushes chewed from the midrib of a yucca leaf will begin to use commercially made brushes to paint designs? That rather than take the many hours needed to gather and process wool, spin it, dye it, and then weave it on handmade looms, weavers may go to automated equipment and store-bought yarns?

If Maestros del Arte can help to broaden the awareness of Mexico’s indigenous art in even a small way, then its goal will have been achieved – bringing together artists of time-honored mediums under one roof to share their art and heighten the awareness of the people who come to view it.

Webster’s dictionary defines art as “making or doing of things that have form and beauty: art includes painting, sculpture,  products of creative work . . .” Handicraft is defined as “an occupation or art calling for skillful use of the hands . . .” Some would argue that handicrafts are not art. For the purpose of describing the work of Maestros del Arte artisans, “art” is the only word that aptly describes their endeavors.

The memoirs of one famous art collector compare the collecting of art to big-game hunting -— picking up the scent of a prey, tracking it down, bagging the prize and then happily exhibiting the trophy in one’s home. However, for most of us, purchasing a piece of art is an aesthetic pleasure. There was no yearning for possession, only the desire to have the chance to admire a work of artistic creation in our daily lives.

There is no specialized knowledge required to be an art collector or to simply purchase a piece of art, nor must you spend exorbitant amounts of money for it to have value. The value is realized moment by moment as one looks at the newly procured treasure. What does the work say to you? Do you care? Perhaps you seek inspiration, healing, a sensory, emotional, intellectual stimulus that enhances your life now and stays with you afterward. A piece of art like that is one you'll never tire of.

There is a tendency in modern times to depreciate the value of the beautiful and overstress the value of the useful. Because the value of art can be sensed through emotions and requires no intellectual analysis, appreciation of art is ultimately in the eye of the beholder and its value is whatever you will pay for it. The job of the artist is to awaken that eye, to offer you something you cannot make yourself, something that moves and stirs your imagination and love for beauty.

Handicrafts are rightly described as the craft of the people. While many of these art forms serve a positive need in the daily life of the people, they also act as a vehicle of self-expression. The story of art and handicrafts goes back into the mists of antiquity, when the story of man was beginning to advance into an age when the capacity of the hands to create was respected, even revered. Handicrafts thrived through the ages helped by a vigorous folk tradition and a time when individualism was cherished, and detail and precision were valued.                   

The artisan was an important factor in the equation of their society and culture. He earned for himself a certain status and a responsible position in society. He made things mainly for the use of the people around him and not so much for sale in a distant marketplace. He was an heir to the people's traditions and he wove them into his craft making it into an art.

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