Saturday, September 14, 2013

Considering Legacy & The Vanishing Folk Pottery of China

I have been considering the importance of legacy & the preservation of art for some time, deeply questioning what is preserved versus what is not and why.  This culminated in my 10-year art anniversary Last Chance! One Night Only! sale and performance, and then again in using the proceeds from that show to start a legacy fund within the local chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art.

I have since been helping the St. Louis Women's Caucus for Art sort and organize its archives for later reference, so that information can be better found, especially pertaining to newsletters and show records such as catalogs, flyers & postcards.  (Note: WCA-STL may be looking to fill in gaps in these chronologies, so if you have archived any past newsletters or show records please keep a lookout for such a call in following months after it is discerned what records may be missing.)

Because of this ongoing consideration, I am aware of others' efforts to preserve and document past and present art for future artists, critics and historians.  On a national level, the Women's Caucus for Art has continued to recognize women artists' longstanding contributions through the Lifetime Achievement Awards.  The group has also produced numerous state-of-the-art show catalogs for national exhibitions, featuring artworks and essays exploring specific themes that affect & celebrate women nationally & internationally, and their roles within & outside of the arts now and throughout history.

Other efforts to preserve and document legacy and art are happening everywhere.  I recently attended a show at Webster University's Cecille R. Hunt Gallery organized by professors Jeri Au (Ceramics) & Jeffrey Hughes (Art History & Criticism).  This exhibition, entitled The Vanishing Folk Pottery of China, features various examples of Chinese minyao, or people's pottery, from the collection of Marie Woo and John & Susanne Stephenson.

Although the Imperial porcelain ceramics created at government kilns have long been well-preserved, traditional wares produced by anonymous local potters for peasantry and villagers' use have not been nearly so well-documented.  By highlighting some of the many longstanding minyao traditions from local Chinese artisan kilns, artworks are preserved that otherwise haven't been, alongside of photographic & written records of potters & their processes

Modernization has greatly reduced the demand for minyao, and so the number of potters in rural China has shrunk dramatically.  A single potter may now be the last artisan executing wares once produced by entire families & larger studios.  Therefore, it is crucial to preserve histories & traditions that may otherwise be lost entirely or delegated to serving a tourist trade, limiting functionality and form to what is most salable in that market.

Legacy and the preservation of history is important at all levels, from traditional forms made by anonymous artists & artisans to contemporary works & artists, emerging & established.  With modern technologies, information is more widely available than ever before but, due to rapid technological evolution and constant uploading of new content, even these records are at risk, falling off of search engines and becoming lost as systems & servers are retired or reappropriated for other tasks.  So legacy doesn't end with any particular show or with content being uploaded online; we must remain aware & diligent in our efforts to promote further posterity.

No comments: