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Strength Training

Published on Friday, April 26, 2019. This article appears in the April/May 2019 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
The Sculpture of Robyn Horn

The Sculpture of Robyn Horn

Mark LaFavor

The Sculpture of Robyn Horn
University of Arkansas Press, $65

Equally fearless and contemplative, Arkansas artist Robyn Horn chops, carves, and chisels wood into geometric wonders that often appear to be in motion despite their heft. This book illustrates the evolution of her three-decade career with more than 200 of her gravity-defying works – in both modest and monumental scale – in chronological order.

Essays by Henry Adams, Cindi Strauss, Rachel Golden, Janet Koplos, and Joyce Lovelace (American Craft’s contributing editor) cover her life, work, and influences. Perhaps even more illuminating, however, are the photos of Horn at work. In one, the sculptor stands strong and secure, wielding a chainsaw with a 4-foot blade as if it were a butter knife. Take the physical feat of creating such work into account, and Horn’s oeuvre becomes even more thrilling. ~Megan Guerber

Intersection: Art & Life
By Kevin Wallace
Schiffer Publishing, $30

Once upon a time in the pre-industrial world, Kevin Wallace writes, “even the lowliest peasant was surrounded by the handmade.” Driven by practical need – vessels for food, furniture for the home, clothing for protection from the elements – artists and craftspeople made the essentials of everyday life. “The hand of the maker was always in contact with the hand of the user,” Wallace writes. But as mass production took hold, things changed. Gradually, art and the handmade became precious and rarefied, the province of royalty, rich industrialists, and museums. Artistry became disconnected from utility, daily life, and relevance.

Wallace, the director of the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, conceived Intersection to right that wrong, to reconnect us with the primordial importance of the handmade. A crash course in the themes of art history, the book features more than 280 photos, along with insights by more than 150 contemporary makers, including Michael Janis, David Huang, Kay Sekimachi, the de La Torre brothers, and others familiar to readers of this magazine. It’s a timely and compelling survey. ~Monica Moses

How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist: Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul
By Caroll Michels
Allworth Press, $25

“When I listened to my inner voice, I moved forward,” writes Caroll Michels, a former artist and current artist’s advocate, in How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist. “When I didn’t, I stumbled.” It’s a simple but heartfelt sentiment, one that imbues this seventh edition of a book originally released in 1983 with renewed urgency and relevance.

The occasion for the latest update is the widespread notion that artists might find their economic salvation by selling themselves, adapting the techniques of advertising and marketing. “For those who understand the inner workings of the art world and the mysterious and varied reasons why art sells,” Michels counters, “the simplistic and gimmicky emphasis on ‘branding’ is insulting and crass.” Instead, she advances the idea that art is a unique industry and that its practitioners have unique power.

In 12 well-organized chapters, the book covers the discrete elements of building an artistic career – everything from pricing your work to practicing self-care to taking advantage of online opportunities – but it never loses sight of a basic tenet: “Artists, by the fact that they are artists, have power.” ~Robert O’Connell