Akron Art Museum

How can an expanded notion of craft let us understand healing more creatively?

FRONT 2022’s presentation at the Akron Art Museum builds on its central theme of art as a mode of transformation, therapy, and healing through a focus on craft, which is a creative process tied to the artist’s hand and body, a form of thinking through making and doing. Spanning generations and geographies, the exhibition explores craft’s close ties to the spiritual and the everyday, relationships that can be seen throughout history and across cultures and religious traditions. And inspired by craft’s etymological origins in ideas of skill and strength, the exhibition foregrounds the therapeutic value of a repetitive daily practice of making, a modality through which one can process personal and collective grief, endure hardship and suffering, and overcome immediate and unresolved traumas.

While some works reference conventional craft mediums such as textiles and ceramics, the exhibition challenges a limited notion of craft by including practices long considered distinct from it, such as abstract painting and sculpture, collage and assemblage, text and poetry, graphic design, and artistic experiments with unconventional materials like rubber tires and beauty products. The included artworks tackle such varied topics as the traumatic legacies of segregation and displacement, the specters of urban violence and natural disaster, the insidious effects of environmental classism and racism, and normative ideas of gender, body, ability, and beauty. The exhibition also reflects on craft’s relationship to labor and class, opening up to Akron’s, and Northeast Ohio’s, industrial past and present.

By showcasing these artists and art practices, the exhibition seeks to expand the traditional role of the contemporary artist to include such kindred figures as the potter and the weaver, the ragpicker and the bricoleur, the shaman and the mystic, the healer and the teacher, the poet and the designer, the dancer and the worker, who all labor through the mechanics and magic of craft to transform dust into rainbows.

Installation view of 'Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows' at Akron Art Museum. Photography by Field Studio.

Exhibitions and programming in the Karl and Bertl Arnstein Gallery at the Akron Art Museum are made possible with support from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Lehner Family Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council. FRONT exhibitions in Akron are presented by Richard and Alita Rogers, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, GAR Foundation, and the Akron Community Foundation.

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