Fine, Or Not So Fine? / by Jacqueline Iskander Mosaics

After my lengthy discussion yesterday, here on my blog over the course of six posts, I could not help but notice all the terms that I used to talk about mosaics: craft, fine craft, art, and fine art. This can be confusing, and it is quite likely that we would not all agree on these terms. 

Clearly, however, those of us who talk about fine art mosaic, and elevating mosaic to a fine art status, have some THING in mind when we use the term fine art

I thought that I would, today, talk about what I mean when I use various terms. You may or may not agree with me, but my usage is informed by my 20+ years in mosaic. That's not to say that, therefore, I am right, rather to offer that I have a valid basis for my views.

In the photo above, I am hoping to illustrate the difference between fine and not fine. Both are decorative mosaic pieces, and could broadly be called decorative mosaic art. The one on the right displays a fineness that the one on the left does not. The vase on the right also displays a higher degree of skill and creative design. 

Further, I would say that the one on the left could qualify as craft, but not fine craft. Although, I would not categorize the one on the right as craft, fine or not. Why? Because of the degree of skill and the level of design. Is this too subjective? Perhaps. But if you can't tell the difference in quality between these two items, then it probably does not matter. 

How about another example?

Here we have two examples of decorative mosaics (well three actually, as there are two mosaic candle holders in the left photo), which can be broadly categorized as decorative mosaic art, although the one on the left could easily be called craft. The candle holders are nicely done and you could say that they are technically finely done, except that the design—if you could even call it that—is just so simple and basic that it can't qualify as fine craft

The bottle on the right, however, is quite finely done, and the demands of the design require a good degree of skill to execute. I consider this a fine decorative mosaic, and would certainly allow that it is fine craft, as well. 

Last but not least:

I categorize all three of the above wall pieces as art, but they are different degrees of art. The still life on the left is art in that it is expressing a point of view. I talked about this one in What's In A Name? #5.  It is not fine art because of the lack of skill, both artistically and mosaically. 

The mosaic in the middle, L'entrata, is a beautiful mosaic, executed with a high degree of technical skill. While it is certainly art, the question of whether or not it is fine art is a bit murky, and will have to defer to the eye of the beholder. The design, if you could call it such, is basically in service to a photograph. I know that this kind of talk can stir emotions, but I am willing to acknowledge that this issue is, indeed, an issue. And I am also willing to acknowledge the view that this mosaic may not be fine art, as fine as it is, primarily because of its not being terribly original.

Regarding the mosaic on the right, Piercing the Veil, I consider this an example of mosaic fine art. Is it good enough to hang in a museum, or win an exhibition? That is not for me to decide. But it displays a high degree of technical mastery and it is a unique expression of an idea and a point of view. From where I was as an artist when I made this piece, this was a sincere attempt to communicate an idea with the highest degree of skill that I possessed. I call it fine art.

Now, you may not agree with my conclusions about the pieces that I've used as examples. That's not the point of this post. I'm just hoping it will contribute to the discussion.