A NYC-based curator shares a few of her favorite things during a visit to the ACC Library.more
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Bookmarks with Ann Howington
After she braved January in Minnesota to spend a week in the ACC archives, we asked Texas-based craft scholar Ann Howington about her research and favorite resources from the field. Here's what she had to say...
If you wrote an autobiography, what would the title be and why?
Great question - one that provides an impetus for peeking back and considering what factors might make an interesting or inspiring story from my life over the past half-century. A fitting book title (based on a blog by Jules Cavanaugh) would be I Require Art due to my lifelong physical, intellectual, and emotional relationship with visual art through art making, studio art training, art viewing, art collecting, art history, art research, and close relationships with artists themselves (i.e. my mother and my spouse). It has become a habit, something I yearn for on a regular basis simply to feel centered.
Requiring something means that it is necessary for a purpose. To me, art brings purpose to my life on many levels. Personal experiences with visual art - shifts between moments of aesthetic and cerebral pleasure contrasting with jolts of harsh reality or critical insights and redirection when I least expect it - such moments truly make me feel alive. Painting, drawing, or making something; having a discussion about an artist or art object; or walking through a museum or gallery challenges me to face myself and my culture.
Visual art challenges everyone (even in minute ways) when we pause and consider a work's essence, ask questions about its origin, materiality, or impact, note its placement or environment, read what others say about it, and consider how it speaks (or doesn’t speak) to us. Once we behold and respond to visual art, we carry something with us and can use it to engage others in conversation by sharing our own knowledge, questions, or experiences. Overall, visual art’s continual presence and effect on me throughout my life has made it a key requirement for the health of my soul, something I cannot live without.
Who in the art/craft/design world do you love to follow on social media?
I follow a number of craft-related pages on Facebook: American Craft Council along with American Craft magazine, Craft in America, Museum of Arts and Design, and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. These all contain craft news, writing about makers, techniques, events, exhibitions, and history. I love reading others' posts on the sites. Keeping my finger on the pulse of the craft world is exciting and always surprising. It is terrific that craft is enjoying such renown today. Based on the period of my research, my favorite makers such as Trude Guermonprez, Marge Israel, or Sari Dienes, flourished during the mid-20th century, and they have since passed away. Thankfully, they are often mentioned on various social media sites, which keep them in the current discussion.
What are your favorite print and digital items in the ACC Library? Name one of each and why.
Print items: As a researcher on a mission, the archival boxes with information about 1950s exhibitions were my favorites during my recent trip to Minneapolis. Boxes M-1, M-2, and M-12, which had press releases, articles, and clippings the about early exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts provided much-needed information for my current project.
Digital items: As an art history graduate student at the University of North Texas (UNT), I continuously use the digitized issues of Craft Horizons 1941-1964, found in the ACC Library Digital Collections, for my research. I used this resource to observe how the publication provided information and first looks at international crafts to Americans during the 1940s and '50s. I also studied the publication’s portrayal of immigrant makers during and following World War II. Presently, my research focus is on the organization, presentation, circulation, and criticism of three national craft exhibitions from the '50s and how these exhibitions contributed to the emerging significance and meaning of the American craftsman.
Craft Horizons offers an abundance of information about the history of craft in America. Due to the fact that my university library no longer offers bound periodicals on site, ACC’s readily available digital issues provide what I need to review a statement or a fact or check a citation (thanks NEA!).
Where do you go to be inspired?
To be truly inspired, I crave being present with actual objects or in pertinent places, rather than viewing images on a monitor or text in a book. For me, the real thing provides a fuller experience. Besides walking in nature for inspiration, I regularly choose to visit art museums and galleries with my husband or with a friend. Contemplating the creative output of artists and makers always provides me with a sense of awe and inspiration. Seeing excellence in the work others causes me to set and pursue higher goals for myself as I move forward in my own work, relationships, and creative endeavors.
Ann Howington is a graduate student in the art history program at UNT in Denton, Texas, with research interests in mid-20th-century American craft. During the past few years as a non-traditional student pursuing her MA, she had opportunities to collaborate with peers and present her research at conferences in Liverpool and Rome. Howington holds a BA in art history and MS in information sciences. She has worked professionally as an academic librarian at both UNT and Sam Houston State University and lives in Denton, where she enjoys spending time with her family and visiting area museums.
Bookmarks is a series exploring what people are reading in print and online and where they find inspiration.