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Art Through Time: A Global View

Domestic Life Compare: Where Is the Line Between “art” and “craft”?

Honeycomb Quilt

Honeycomb Quilt
Artist / Origin: Elizabeth Van Horne Clarkson (American, 1771–1852)
Region: North America
Date: ca. 1830
Period: 1800 CE – 1900 CE
Material: Cotton
Medium: Textiles and Fiber Arts
Dimensions: H: 107 5/8 in. (273.4 cm.), W: 98 ¼ in. (249.6 cm.)
Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William A. Moore

Blocks, Strips, Strings, and Half-Squares Quilt

Blocks, Strips, Strings, and Half-Squares Quilt
Artist / Origin: Mary Lee Bendolph (American, b. 1935), Gee’s Bend Quilter’s Collective, Gee’s Bend, AL
Region: North America
Date: 2005
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Cotton
Medium: Textiles and Fiber Arts
Dimensions: H: 84 in. (213.4 cm.), W: 81 in. (205.7 cm.)
Location: Collection of the Tinwood Alliance
Credit: Gee’s Bend Foundation/Collection of the Tinwood Alliance/ Photo Courtesy of Stephen Pitkin, Pitkin Studio, Rockford, IL

Where is the line between “art” and “craft”?

Because they served practical functions and were not made of particularly durable material, many of the blankets, covers, and quilts created in past eras have been lost to us. Because those textiles have traditionally been the domain of women and associated primarily with the home, the ones that have survived have not always received the kind of attention their artistry and skill demand. A comparison of Elizabeth Van Horne Clarkson’s quilt with Mary Lee Bendolph’s raises many questions about not just art, but also art history.

Questions to Consider

  • Both of these quilts were created through a technique known as piecing. The design produced in each, however, is strikingly different. Compare the two designs and their visual effects. What does each say about the aesthetic values of its maker?
  • The Honeycomb quilt was created following a particular pattern that was widely available. The Gee’s Bend quilt is an original design. Do these facts influence your understanding of each work as “art”?
  • How would you explain the traditional distinction between “art” and “craft”? Do you think this is a valid and/or useful division? Why or why not? Use these quilts to make your case.

Series Directory

Art Through Time: A Global View

Credits

Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2