Craft Transvalued: The Pottery of James Whitney

dc.contributor.advisorEvans, Heidi Nasstrom
dc.contributor.authorMalnic, Braden J
dc.creatorMalnic, Braden J
dc.description.abstractCraft is the act of perfected attention, absolute skill, with which the maker brings her/his rhythms to bear on the means, whether material or words, that will bring out, find out the form. Craft enables the object to do exactly what it wants to do whether it be pot or a poem or both. When we willfully – with our senses and our intellect – transform that which is essentially ephemeral, temporal, and transitory by giving it form, we enter the state of art, the state of poetry. (Page 13.) Rose Slivka, The Object as Poet on the occasion of an exhibition at the Renwick Gallery December 15, 1976 – June 26, 1977 The art-craft dialectic, and its concerns with developing oppositions and defining intentions (in which time, process, and material became a common denominator in determining the value of both) has obfuscated a poetic and metaphysical notion of craft. By investigating the filmmaker/ potter James Whitney (1921-1982) as a case study in how notions of converging artistic pursuits were conceived around expanding interests in artistic techniques, mysticism and perception, this paper identifies how inherent in craft, and its language at the time, was a connectivity and relatability that invited appropriation and interpretation. The meaning of process was two-fold for Whitney: learning how to make pottery and how the direct experience of making craft affected oneself. He found spiritual and artistic commonalities with potters like M.C. Richards who strove to synthesize her understanding, personal experience, and cross-genre methodologies in her work. More so, Whitney’s own practice as a filmmaker, and his varying interests topics like alchemy and perception become part of Whitney’s own potting. Whitney focused his creativity on pottery after he made his most-celebrated film Lapis (1963-1966). His shift to crafting tea bowls, Raku pots, and expressive ceramics, in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s, is more than a biographical anecdote. This paper examines Whitney’s stated reasons for making pottery, how other contemporaries had considered his decision, and elements of his film Dwija (1973), which is identified as being created with his own experiences with studio craft in mind.
dc.subjectJames Whitney
dc.titleCraft Transvalued: The Pottery of James Whitney
dc.typeThesis of Decorative Arts Mason University's of Arts in History of Decorative Arts


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