Behind closed doors, I read a lot about art. Now those doors are open. Art theory, aesthetics, evolutionary psychology of art, and art history inspire me. I find in these books source material for new art projects that become the basis of my fiction writing about art. I’m also always thinking about land, wine, walking, landscape, and sublime views. In this blog I’ll make room for those latter thoughts to expand on the page, while keeping the fiction writing for my dream of getting published.
This quote from John Ruskin on page 237 of The Invention of Art by Larry Shiner (2001) inspires me tonight: “It is not the labour that is divided, but the men.” It’s from The Nature of Gothic chapter in The Stones of Venice (1854), a seminal document for the Arts and Crafts movement of the Victorian era. Essentially anti-industrial, Ruskin here laments the loss of traditional methods of production on the artisans’ psyche. Artisans no longer combine skill and creativity as they formerly did when small shops controlled the entire production line and allowed for pride in the final product, be it a shoe or painting. What eventually became Taylorism in production in the 1910s, sealed a century long transition from artisan production, when craft and art were indistinguishable, to factory production where artisans were demoted to machine operators, or segregated into the “applied” arts of the design sphere, and artists were flung skyward towards the heavens as genius god-like creators freed from the “utility” of pre-industrial arts to create, anxiously almost, rushing to stay in front of a tidal wave of cult of novelty called the avant-grade. Back to Ruskin- this poor artisan’s psyche suffers from being deprived of the meaning gleaned from the ability to see through producing an object in its entirety. I would say that the artist’s psyche from the new heights of revered stardom, suffers equally in being constrained to produce objects that are only non-useful, or if they are useful, are generally co-opted into a museum fast enough to have only briefly served a function outside of being art. For that reason, I see the making of wine as a chance to operate with a healthy psyche successfully within a cleaved art world where fine art and craft still struggle in their separate spheres for reconciliation. Making wine is enough of an artistic practice, at least in its appearance as it resemble alchemy, the transformation of a primary material into something complex and mysterious and holds the same luxury status as art and jewelry in the open market, to satisfy my impulse to create as an artist but also satisfies my divided (division imposed, as Ruskin points out in 1854, by changing methods of production in the industrial era, that co-evolved with the desperation of art and craft) impulse to have my creations be useful, applied and connected to everyday living. Winemaking is my defiance of the art world, it’s a creative project that can’t be co-opted by a museum and can’t be dismissed as craft. It’s a beautiful limbo in this unfortunately divided art world. Wine can cleave craft to fine art.