What's In A Name? #6 / by Jacqueline Iskander Mosaics

Iskandria 3" x 3" | 8 cm x 8 cm. Glass, hematite, obsidian, Swarovski crystal (2012)

Still with me? Because if you're not, I'm just having a conversation with myself. Nothing new on that count. 

So what is the above mosaic all about? Well, I was at a loss as to what might be useful for this final post, so I just chose one of my favorite things that I have ever made. Fine art? No way. 

It is a nice little piece of art, in my opinion, but perhaps just barely art. I made six of these in 2012, each one a bit different, but extremely similar. So, are they art? If not, what are they? Craft? Like a lot of things that we create, it may be somewhere in the middle. 

As I behlold this, I will tip the scale on the art side. It exhibits a fair degree of mosaic skill, and I think that the sky is more than just a bit crafty. But, does it have a deeper meaning? Express a point of view? Make a statement? No, no, and no. Maybe it's just floating around in that no-person's land of crafty-art or arty-craft. To this beholder—me—it's a little piece of art. 

I've tried to be very tactful in this series of posts, as I know this can be a touchy subject for some people. Maybe it seems that I have kind of danced around the topic, but I've meant to use examples and my own personal experience to make some points. Too subtle? Well, I can remedy that.

Over the years, I've spent many hours visiting other mosaic artists' websites. I italicized mosaic artists because the term is as pesky as mosaic fine art. Just because someone calls his/herself a mosaic artist, does that mean that they are? Just because they call their work fine art, does that mean that it is? 

From a lofty distance, we can take refuge in saying that it's not up to us to answer those questions, that it is all in the eye of the beholder. But for the sake of this discussion, my answer to both of those questions is emphatically NO

Now, let's get serious:

  1. Are you clear on what your work is, and on what your work is not? On the degree to which your work is craft, fine craft, art, or fine art?
  2. Do you want your work to be regarded as mosaic fine art
  3. Do you have an idea of what is and is not mosaic fine art?
  4. Do you have a website gallery, titled fine art, with uninformed crazy-paving frames? (Crazy-paving is quite legitimate and awesome, when done correctly. When done incorrectly, I call it uninformed, which is the good-cop's variation of the bad-cop's amateur.)
  5. Do you label your mosaic birdhouses, stepping stones, and candle holders fine art creations?
  6. In any profession, for your work to be elevated to a high status, a good degree of mastery in your medium is required. Art is no exception. Do you understand the technical aspects of your medium? Does your work exhibit a good degree of technical mastery? 
  7. If you have not achieved a good degree of technical mastery, do you still call your work fine art?
  8. It probably does not matter what you call your business or your website or your Facebook business page. If you know what your work is, if you are clear on what you are creating and why, the name that you choose is not nearly as important. If your work is stunning and true and fine, your company could be called This Is Not Fine Art, and your work would be still known as fine art.
  9. Having said what I said in #8, I personally think that if your art is serious, your business should have a serious name, whether it is your own name or not. There is something in a name, and certainly when a name is all that a potential gallery or buyer has in front of them. Just Jackie's Mosaics conveys a different weight than does Jacqueline Iskander, or even Jacqueline Iskander Mosaics.

Over the years, I've been able to observe the evolution of mosaic as a fine art, and it has been quite remarkable and exciting. I've also observed, with frustration, a lack of discernment in various areas and levels of the mosaic community, from individuals to organizations. 

This lack of discernment, while understandable to some degree, considering the relative newness and speed with which mosaic has moved, is also a hindrance to it finding its place in the fine art world. This lack of discernment, while played out in public, serves to perpetuate itself, reflecting poorly on the medium as a whole, impeding its elevation.

This is the end of my treatise. Thank you for listening.