I've struggled with the uneasy relationship between useful things and art things, and have poked around their parameters through my own practice. And what I've come up with is this: my collection of handmade, spider-web-delicate doilies crocheted by the great-aunts are not considered artworks (yet). But reproducing them in a painting series makes them art (for now). The distinctions often lie in the intended environments for the objects. Doilies, although formerly employed to protect domestic surfaces in order to extend their lifespan, are most likely found in thrift-store bins. Paintings are intended for the walls of public or commercial galleries or upscale living rooms. And therein lies the awful truth about how we value those different spaces. Original art exudes investment value. Use objects are only worth the function they serve.
So what to make of the ceremonial robes on display at the Bill Reid Gallery last year? The "Time Warp" show revealed that the erroneously known ‘blanket’ is far from the household craft the word suggests but a magnificent artwork that honours the wearer and carries culture through its use.
I haven't quite put it all together but there's a hint of where this exploration is going in the Logo Sweater I knit in the weeks leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was in its wearing by a number of people during the Games (to their peril) that contributes to its intrinsic value as an art object. All while its assumed use value works against accepting it as an artwork.
At right: Haida Weaver Tracy Auchter Yahgulanaas with "Graduation Robe" (Ann Seymour photo from Bill Reid Gallery site) Below: Logo Sweater, Carlyn Yandle 2010.