I visited the new Mississippi Craft Center today. If you haven't seen it you really should for the outstanding architecture if not for the amazing shop of Mississippi crafts. I didn't know what was showing in their gallery prior to my visit and what I saw was at the same time bizarre and endearing. It is a selection of aprons from a collection of over 600 aprons owned by a lady named Carolyn Childs Terry in Iuka, Mississippi. You may wonder why I would be interested in putting such a thing on a fine arts focused blog, but there were two things that kind of intrigued me about this. First, though not all of the aprons in the collection are hand made, I felt like there was an interesting connection between these and the quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama that took New York by storm several years ago. True, the designs of these aprons don't have the irony of strong abstract designs by folks that couldn't be further from the established artworld as the quilts did, but the idea of designing and crafting such an ordinary utilitarian object into a personalized expression creates a value that can't be ignored.
However, I probably would have just walked by the sign that simply reads "Apron Show" had I not just started reading The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa by Michael Kimmelman. Kimmelman is an art critic for the New York Times, but I was not familiar with him until I watched the documentary film My Kid Could Paint That. He was in the film, but there is a section in the special features that is simply titled Michael Kimmelman on Art. This short monologue is some of the most refreshing and comprehensible commentary on art that I believe I have ever heard. That being said I had to pick up his book. In the introduction he talks about a man that amassed a collection of around 75,000 lightbulbs and lightbulb related objects. Kimmelman writes,
" He certainly created something wondrous out of his
improbable hobby. His achievement was not simply to
put together a collection of lightbulbs; it was to convey
through his collection the obvious contentment and
meaning that this obsession gave him. The collection...
became his masterpiece by accident - by which I mean
not a traditional work of art like a painting or a sculpture
but derived, like art, from a creative impulse, a deep
compulsion pursued to the nth degree. His museum
became a shrine to his peculiar ardor, which (again,
like art) entailed the value of looking at something very
closely, in this case at a humble lightbulb.
The idea behind The Accidental Masterpiece, the one
that popped into my head at some point, is pretty simple.
It is not that I should write a book of art history or
criticism, exactly, or solely dwell on my favorite painters,
sculptors, and photographers. Nor is it that all art is
salutory. A day of looking at bad art can be long and
dark. Instead, it is this - whether the example is the
life of an artist as lofty as Bonnard or the passion of a
lightbulb-enthusiast... - art provides us with clues about
how to live our own lives more fully. Put differently,
this book is, in part, about how creating,
collecting, and even just appreciating art can make
living a daily masterpiece."
There's nothing else I can say. Here are some of the aprons...