In/Visible Women Designers/Craftspeople
Open lecture with Ezra Shales, Professor, History of Art Department, Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
About the lecture:
As we negotiate histories recent of artistic production, design and craft objects and makers are problematically lost, over-written or re-coded into immaterial stories. Virginia Woolf’s comment that “For most of history, anonymous was a woman” remains a worthwhile compass to keep in mind when reflecting on artistic canons and museum collections. Ezra Shales will reflect on his work as a curator and organizer of two exhibitions about women designers and craftspeople in the USA: “Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today,” held at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York City, and National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C., 2015-2016, and “O Pioneers! Women Ceramic Artists, 1925-1960,” at the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum in 2015. While scholarship on the politics of domesticity has expanded, the marginalization of artifacts connected with the domestic continues to be enigmatic. Tension over what is categorized under the label of design, craft, and art often hinges on the gender of the author as much as where an artefact sits on the spectrum between one-off, small-batch and mass-production. Identifying nationalism, transnationalism and modernity in these artifacts remains both rewarding and a challenge as histories of design and craft incline more towards conceptual narratives.
Ezra Shales teaches in the history of art department at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He is the author of two books, Made in Newark (Rutgers University Press, 2010), which explores craft as an anchor of regional identity in progressive-era New Jersey, and The Shape of Craft (Reaktion, 2017), which has prompted a reviewer to identify him as a “philosopher of the factory floor.” He also works as a freelance curator and has published numerous articles and essays that tend to focus on the productive confusion that lies at the intersection of design, craft, and art. Currently, Shales is writing a manuscript on basketry as an index of our ecological outlook and of our paradoxical sense of commitments to cultural preservation and heritage. He is also preparing new editions of of David Pye’s seminal books The Nature of Design (1964) and The Nature and Art of Workmanship (1968). Shales has a Ph.D. from the Bard Graduate Center and an M.F.A. from Hunter College.