Art you can
* drink from
* put apples in
* fill with flowers
In short, art that works for a living.
Thousands of objects made by 100 of America's most talented artist/craftworkers are on view through Sunday at the first Washington Craft Show, which was juried to choose crafts worthy of being counted as fine art.
Blown and worked glass gives a glimpse of a shimmering world. Ceramics recall the strength of ancient Korean, Chinese and Japanese work. Metals are twisted and tortured into objects as fabulous as those from an Aladdin's cave. Cotton fabric is made into costumes to transform one's role in life.
These, perhaps more than much of today's easel art and sculpture, are the art objects that will survive our century, heirlooms from the Great American Craft Revival, circa 1983. This exhibit shows how far art crafts have come from the funky jokes and loving-hands-at-home handicrafts of the start of the craft revival about 15 years ago.
Collectors have already discovered many of the artists in this show, so some of the prices reach five figures. But the prices here are still far below those of superstars such as Albert Paley, Otto Natzler and Wendell Castle, whose work is now on display at local commercial galleries.
Twenty-six ceramicists, more workers than in any other medium, are in the exhibit. Among the best of their work:
Nancee Meeker's pit-fired, stone-burnished vessels, incised with remarkable feather and wave-like designs, are reminiscent of works of the turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts movement. Sylvia Davis Bower's subtle vessels often carry the mark of the grasses or seaweed with which they were fired. Other excellent ceramics: Harvey Sadow Jr.'s spheres with their rough textures and rich colors; Tom Berentson-Benesh's wonderful cut-work; the medieval forms of Jeff Kirk of Glen Echo, and Wayne L. Bates' sgraffito vessels.
The clear standout in glass is Toland Peter Sand. His amazing sculptures, meant to be enhanced by light, are beveled, sandblasted, etched and shaped. Also worth noting: Friar Jerry Hovanec's glass orbs and the Indian patterned glass of Leonard DiNardo.
The metal and jewelry work is diverse in size and design. A. Bryant Clark, Vernon and Helen Raaen, and David Paul Bacharach make knives, tools and other utensils of an almost unbelievable fineness. Bacharach's work was chosen by the crafts artists themselves as best in show. The huge circular metal table bases of Michael Ficalora are dramatic.
Jeanne Fleming's "Fantasy Clothes," splendid designs that owe something to Korean costumes and much to dreams, are, incredibly enough, also wearable and fairly priced.
Debra Chase's screen-wire constructions in the shapes of dresses (winner of the best-in-show judges' award) are not what you'd call wearable, but lookable.
Among the better woodworkers, most of them inspired by the Art Deco, Art Nouveau or Arts and Crafts movement, are John Bickel, Jeff Kellar and Robert Sorrels.
Today, art is often so minimal as to be, like the emperor's new clothes, not there at all. In contrast, much of the art at the Washington Craft Show is exquisite in workmanship, pleasing in design and joyful to use.
The show and sale is sponsored by the Women's Committee of the Smithsonian Associates. Proceeds will benefit Smithsonian projects. Exhibitors were selected by John Glick, Michigan potter; Lee Hall, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, and Lloyd Herman, Renwick Gallery curator. Show award judges were Charles Gailis, president of the James Renwick Collectors' Alliance; Robert Pfannebecker, a collector, and Paul Smith, president of the Museum of American Crafts.
The show is open 11 to 9, today and Saturday, and 11 to 6 on Sunday at the Departmental Auditorium, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW.