clip: PBS’s Craft in America

June 11, 2011

R: Thomas Mann (Mark Markley photograph), L: TM's Container heart pin (Will Crocker photograph)

When I first saw the PBS series Craft in America back in 2007 or so, I assumed it was a one-off run of hour-long episodes exploring themes in art, using mini-profiles of artists working in various media across the United States.  Each hour took a particular theme, like roots, materials, processes, heredity, geography and motivations, and looked at artists’ relationship to the theme.

Happily, I discovered the series has continued. A repeat I stumbled upon on May 24 episode was called Messages, and it profiled

  • a glass maker whose specialty is still life,witchy and enormous and wild still lifes
  • a New Mexican wood carver who began making “santos” or saints in the tradition of his Spanish and Indian forebears and then moved into a series that puts saints in the traditional context via classic automobiles with excrutiatingly exacting religious iconography,
  • a bead artist who has fused the visual storytelling heritage of quiltmaking into bead sculpture, and
  • Thomas Mann, a New Orleans, metal sculptor, found-object revisionary, jewely maker and whose words about art captured my heart for their simple and powerful definition of what constitutes art and art making. Here’s what he said.

“I hardly ever use the words craft artist to describe myself. I just use the word artist. to me being an artist is about expressing yourself and manifesting objects out of your creativity that other people acknowledge as being important to them in some form or fashion and are willing to support your efforts to continue making them.”

I guess you might have had to be there, but watch this series online, via the link above or here, or if web TV is not your thing, check your PBS listings for this show. It’s a real treat for anyone who loves art as much as the act of making art and the even finer act of being able to talk about making art.

For the advance class, who are intrigued about Thomas Mann, here is a map of his works around New Orleans, part of a post-Katrina series he called Storm Cycle.

Denise Duguay


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