3 November

The Daily Potholder. Re-Imagining Art

by Jon Katz

   Maria and I had a lively discussion last night about “high” and “low” art, the idea that some art is “real” art and other art – that not defined by critics, gallery owners and museum procurers – is something different. The potholders she makes provoke a lot of discussion, in our lives and in the outside world. There are now a few mailing lists devoted to talking about them, many berating me for squawking about a pink and green color match. I love it.
  Potholders would not traditionally be defined as art, but to me, they are art in the purest sense of the term. They touch people, are individual works of creation, and unlike most art, people can afford them and actually use them if they wish. Some people send fabric to Maria for her to use in transforming them into art: to remember a mother or father or somebody they love or have loved. I can testify from personal experience it’s interesting to be given a quilt or potholder made up of fabric from your own life.
 My old shirts have a new life in quilts all over the place. I think art, like publishing, used to be controlled by a very few who defined art and made most people feel as if they couldn’t understand it. Recessions aren’t good for much, but they are good for challenging notions of art, photography and writing.
 I don’t think there is “high” or “low” art. Art is personal, individualistic, not something for people in Manhattan or academe to define. We are all telling our stories, in the best ways in which we can. If we think it’s art, it is. A woman sent Maria some of her late mother’s clothes, and Maria is making potholders from it for her sons and daughters and grandkids. She doesn’t make her things to custom – she is the artist, and holds to her own view of creation. But I can’t think of a better notion of art.

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