The Imaginative Encounters Of `Art' and `Craft'

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DIANA HOBSON'S small sculptural objects cross the boundary from "craft" into "art." It's not only that they have found their way into art galleries. They move conceptually away from certain "craft" expectations and limits. They are not utilitarian, but this today is hardly unusual among objects that carry the label of "craft." What Hobson has found she needs to do is liberate her work from the common preoccupation with techniques and materials that can absorb the attention of both the makers and the buye rs of craft objects.

Hobson's development has taken her through ceramics, to metalwork, enameling, and glassmaking. In the early 1980s she began specializing in pate de verre techniques, methods that are closer to those used by a ceramicist building a pot than to the procedures of a glass blower. Pate de verre involves the use of ground glass mixed with a fluxing medium to help it melt readily. This mixture is put into a mold and fired to fuse the particles of glass. The small vessel in "Fragment of a Circle" is made by this

method; it is a round receptacle for white light which seems to have settled for a moment, like some ethereal, unexpected creature on its stone perch.

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As she moves into the making of sculpture, though her pieces are not large, Hobson can call on her varied craft skills and experience, using them to bring together forms and materials not usually associated with each other. The result, as shown in the two pieces here seen at the William Jackson Gallery, London, are imaginative encounters that have a personal and intense kind of poetry, a mystique that is at the same time cosmic and earthy.

The rough and natural forms in stone are like fragments lifted from nature. Her crafted forms belong to human fantasy, molded and modeled by her hand. Human artifacts coincide with natural artifacts. Unusual chemistry occurs.

Visiting Crete in the mid 1980s, Hobson (as she has said in an interview with Jeremy Theophilus) was impressed by the way ancient artifacts there were an integral part of the culture, "part of the earth ... part of the islanders' life." The same interview notes her meeting with a native American artist, Conrad House. His influence moved her to use a greater variety of materials, including feathers and hair.

Though Hobson is British, her work has been exhibited in many parts of the world. The two pieces here were part of a series of "Seven Steps" shown as a one-person exhibition in early 1991 at the Kurland/Summers Gallery in Los Angeles. Hobson has explained in print how this series developed, an amalgam of ideas of some complexity concerned with ancestral intimations, embryonic concepts, mythology, and energies of the earth and universe. Certainly if such strongly felt concepts are the source of intriguing

art, fair enough. But there is an unforunate tendency among craft artists to verbalize confusingly. At worst it savors of pretension.

Why not let the work speak for itself? Hobson's certainly does.

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