Soccer moms can’t make art – can they?

Who decides what’s art and what is not art?

(Hahahahaha that’s a trick question we all know who decides)

Michelle Grabner’s sculpture – a cast of a crocheted blanket – on the Milwaukee River.

What is art?

And who decides what is art?

Well we all know – or if you think about it, we should know – the answer to the second question.


Men decide what is art.

And guess what?

Art is what men do. Craft is what women do. And craft is lesser.

You think I am making this up?

I am not.

I read a book a few years ago – I can’t remember the title but it turns out this conversation is still ongoing – about art and craft. The TLDR is that at the beginning of the 19th century, there was a debate about art. What is it?

And the TLDR on that is that basically, if women do it, it’s craft, but if men do it, it’s art.

Crafts can include weaving, carving, pottery, embroidery, macrame, beading, sewing, quilting, and many other forms. 

Eden Gallery

Quick question: Who usually does the weaving and the embroidery and the sewing and the quilting?

OK, they included carving in the list, but the rest – it’s women.

And, NB, if men do it, it becomes art. When men design and sew clothes, they are tailors or even fashion designers. When men cook, they are chefs. You get the picture.

This entire piece on the debate is really interesting, but this quotation sums it up: If it’s useful and used in the home (that is, if WOMEN make it), it’s not art. Only art that exists for art’s sake is art.

Craftspeople traditionally made items that had a domestic function; even those of a high quality didn’t have the same luxury status as art, which has no practical purpose. This distinction gave the crafts a lower status, and craftspeople were considered working class, while artists often moved in high society circles.

Eden Gallery

Mr T and I went on a sculpture tour last night. We saw a piece – photo above – by Michelle Grabner, a Milwaukee artist who teaches at the Art Institute in Chicago. This piece was clearly part of this series: “Many are sculptural casts of hand-knitted and crocheted blankets that reflect her career-long interest in domestic environments and everyday life.” (Source)

Not to mention challenge the ideology that craft <> art. She is making ART out of a CRAFT.

Grabner has been criticized as being a “soccer mom.” In a 2014 New York Times review of her show, a critic called her a “soccer mom” and said her art was “bland.”

Nothing in all this is more interesting than the unexamined sociological background of the whole. If the show were a satire of the artist as a comfortably middle-class tenured professor and soccer mom, it would be funny and possibly illuminating, but it’s not.

Is being a soccer mom bad?

Can soccer moms not create art?

I am reminded of the debate that Jennifer Weiner has been waging on the behalf of female writers against the patriarchy. She notes that when women write about women’s lives, the books are dismissed as “chick lit,” but when men (like Jonathan Frazen – full disclosure I HATE HIS BOOKS) do it, it’s literature.

Do I think I should be getting all of the attention that Jonathan “Genius” Franzen gets? Nope. Would I like to be taken at least as seriously as a Jonathan Tropper or a Nick Hornby? Absolutely.

Jennifer Weiner

She also notes that the majority of the reviewers at the New York Times and the reviews are by men, for men.

However, I think it’s irrefutable that when it comes to picking favorites – those lucky few writers who get the double reviews AND the fawning magazine profile AND the back-page essay space AND the op-ed, or the Q and A edited and condensed by Deborah Solomon – the Times tends to pick white guys. Usually white guys living in Brooklyn or Manhattan, white guys who either have MFAs or teach at MFA programs…white guys who, I suspect, remind the Times’ powers-that-be of themselves, minus twenty years and plus some hair.

Jennifer Weiner

Mr T and I watched a woman weave a scarf.

She designed the scarf herself. She threaded the loom. She shuttled every single thread through, one by one.

This, my friends, is what the art world considered and still considers to be “craft,” which, by their own admission, is not as worthy as “art.”

What do you think? Is it art?

Two scarves with the same warp – longitudinal threads – but different weft – horizontal threads.
Photo credit, Woods Hall Gallery and Studios, La Pointe, WI

Stupid people ruin everything

“I will not donate a single dime to a trader of the USA!” texted an idiot about my candidate

Read Jeff’s new book about a TRAITOR. It’s excellent.

We are a representative democracy. And every citizen deserves representation.

Even the stupid ones.

But y’all – I am done. There’s a limit and I have found it.

I can handle stupid+good. I can handle stupid+willing to learn. I can handle ignorant+good+willing to learn.

What I cannot handle is stupid+ignorant+evil.

You know who I’m talking about.


Trump supporters. Current trump supporters.

I’m volunteering for a male candidate for Congress who is running against an incumbent. (The incumbent is a trumper.)

The campaign sends out texts and then we volunteers answer them with canned replies, although I have been correcting the grammar on those canned replies and will sometimes modify the reply.

For instance, someone asked to be removed from the list, saying that the person who had had the number had died, so of course the human response is to not only remove the number from the list but also to say, “I am sorry for your loss.” We are not monsters.

Where I struggle is with responding to stupid people.

Sometimes, I let myself write the answer I want, such as in this case:

One person replied that he would not donate money to my candidate, so I asked who he was supporting for the seat my candidate is running for.

“TRUMP 2024!” he answered.

To which I replied – I couldn’t help it – “Is Trump running for Congress in 2024?”

Other times, I have to hold myself back because I don’t want anything to blow up for my candidate.

You will not win. I will not donate a single dime to a trader of the USA!!

My immediate impulse was to respond with “it’s ‘traitor,’ not ‘trader.'”

(But I didn’t.)

Do you believe in God? Democratic party praises Satin. You will not receive a donation from this house. We stand with God.

You know where I wanted to go with this one. (But I didn’t.)

If only you knew how BETTER it would be if your whore of a mother swallowed you, instead of shitting you out, you PEDOPHILIC POS ZHERVA ABORTA, SHLYUKHA TROTSKAYA.


Repent or hell is yours forever ask Gid to forgive you and be righteous not a politician

Satin/an is a popular theme. As is Gid.

Pound salt you communist pig

Is pounding salt a thing?

Blow it out your ass [candidate]. I would not vote for you if you we’re running against Adolph Hitler

What I wanted to say: “were. ‘Were’ running against…” (But I didn’t.)

I hope you trip on a rock in the middle of the night and stub your toe

After all the vitriol, this one seemed kind of – sweet. Although who has rocks on the floor of their bedroom?

How can I be so sure these people are stupid, ignorant, and evil?


They still support trump.

Despite everything, they still support him.

So either they know what he’s done and what he’s really like and they don’t care, which makes them evil, or they have no clue, which makes them ignorant, and no interest in learning, which makes them stupid.

I know people who voted for him in 2016 because they had always voted for Republicans.

But as the horrors of that man emerged (well, more horrors), they changed. A dear college friend said her mom and dad had always voted R because that’s just what they did. But with trump, they were so horrified that not only are they now supporting Ds, they are also active in the Lincoln Project.

That, my friends, is the appropriate response.

Not doubling down on your support (looking at a few cousins to whom I will probably never speak again).

I think most of these people – the texters above – are just stupid blowhards who find daring in anonymity, but there is a real-life impact of this kind of thing. A friend is running for state office. Last night, she messaged me to ask if I was out of town with Mr T.

“I asked if he would do doors with me,” she said, “but he said he’s gone hiking for a week.”

She’s trying to find people to campaign with her during the day.

“I can’t go alone for safety reasons,” she wrote.

She has gotten death threats. I’m sure she has gotten rape threats, too, because that’s what some men do.

Mr T ran for office four times and not once in all that time did we think that he shouldn’t campaign alone.

No, he didn’t get death threats or rape threats, but even without such threats, my friend would probably be reluctant to go out on her own.

I offered to help if she thought a middle-aged woman would count as protection.

“I just need another person so I can’t get attacked or kidnapped and no one knows,” she answered.

Because there are stupid, evil people out there. Still.

When the men are wrong and the woman is right

“I was right,” the anthropology professor said. “I was RIGHT.”

Aztalan mounds in Wisconsin. Source

Mr T and I went to the Aztalan mounds in southern Wisconsin to hear an anthropology professor from the University of Wisconsin at Madison talk about her research: how the late Woodland population and members of the Mississippian civilization lived together and how they got together in the first place.

(Why did I not learn any of this in school? I barely knew the names “Apache” and “Navajo” and they were rarely mentioned in the context of anything good.)

As the professor was giving us the background, a small woman with long graying hair secured by four barrettes, her leathery, wrinkled face without makeup, wearing faded clothes and Birkenstocks and sitting on a tiger-print coat, raised her hand and asked in accented English (Russian, maybe?) if it was possible that the Mississippians had migrated north via the Mississippi River.

Which – was not what I was expecting a little old-ish lady to ask, especially a little old-ish lady with a heavy accent.

Maybe she was also an anthropologist? Maybe she was an anthropologist who had been forced to flee from her native country? And she couldn’t get another university job? But she was current on the literature and wanted to talk to a colleague?

I don’t know. I want to know! I want the full story. What I do know is that Little Old-ish Lady asked some great questions and made the whole thing a lot more interesting.

Back to the professor.

Some kind of imaging technology had helped her see what might be underground. Even though other mound communities didn’t have houses in certain areas, this new technology indicated there might be something in the plaza. (Is that where? I can’t remember for sure – it’s been a few weeks since this happened.)

Other archeologists and other anthropologists insisted there couldn’t possibly be anything in that area, but the professor asked for permission to dig.

And she found stuff.

She found houses and the other things she was looking for.

“I was right,” she said, as she told us the story. “I was RIGHT.”

My friend and former co-worker (at a tech company) – let’s call her Ali – is an archeologist. She left the profession because she was tired of life on the road.

“[The professor] said other archeologists discounted her ideas,” I texted her. “She meant ‘men,’ I bet.”

Ali replied, “Archaeologists are jerks. And yes, they are mostly men.”

But we knew that, right?