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New Exhibition Comes to KCAD with Tongue Firmly in Cheek

Posted February 24, 2014 in Gallery

Laughter in an art gallery? Apart from the din of crowded receptions, this concept has long been considered foreign. But that’s all set to change on March 4, when Kendall College of Art and Design, Ferris State University (KCAD) will welcome the traveling exhibition Humor in Craft to the Fed Galleries.

Guest-curated by Brigitte Martin, author and founder of crafthaus, a social network for professional craft artists, the exhibition explores the personal nature of humor. Our social backgrounds, personal experiences and values, knowledge of popular culture, and education all factor into our opinions about what’s funny and what isn’t, and using craft art to start a dialogue about humanity and humor is what Humor in Craft is all about. Martin began the project as a book (also titled Humor in Craft) that paired images of 235 different humorous craft objects with statements from the artists who created them about the role that humor plays in their work.

Brigitte Martin, guest curator of Humor in Craft

“When I embarked on assembling images of humorous craft artwork, it became clear rather quickly that, even though everyone likes to share funny stories, humor definitely takes on different meanings,” Martin explained. “So the question arose, what do we laugh at? Are there images or artwork that everyone finds hilarious? Are there topics that are off-limits and how far can you go before it’s just not funny anymore? And who gets to decide that this point has been reached?”

As an exhibition, Humor in Craft spotlights 33 craft artists from around the United States whose artwork ranges from the highly ironic and sarcastic to the satirical to the just plain amusing. Selected works grapple with topics such as the human experience, religion, pop culture, politics and history, among others—and draw attention to the craft materials—clay, glass, metal, fiber, wood and mixed media—that are used by contemporary artists today.

Among the pieces included in the exhibition is "Smug Mug" by Jason Kishell. (photo credit: Aime Kishell)

Fittingly, the exhibition will open just days before the start of the fourth annual Gilda’s LaughFest, a region-wide celebration of laughter featuring stand-up comedy, improv, film, authors, and community showcases. In this way, says KCAD Director of Exhibitions Sarah Joseph, Humor in Craft embodies the Fed Galleries’ mission to give visitors an experience that transcends the gallery by drawing viewers into larger conversations about the themes and topics explored in the art on display.

“The fact that this exhibition is coinciding with LaughFest is very exciting, because both events provoke people in a way that gets them thinking about laughter and humor as more than a pleasurable escape or a natural reaction. When people experience Humor and Craft, they’ll leave asking new and stimulating questions of themselves and the world around them, and that’s what any great art exhibition, or other cultural event for that matter, should be able to do well.”

From ceramic artist Alice Simpson, whose delightfully lifelike bust of Marie Antoinette, Portrait of the Artist as Marie Antoinette, contains slyly subtle details that reference controversial current events, to Jason Kishell, whose porcelain piece Smug Mug exhibits a comically skewed sense of a typical domestic object, the artists in Humor in Craft each use sharp wit and visual juxtaposition to engage audiences in this type of internal and external questioning.

"Portrait of the Artist as Marie Antoinette," by Alice Simpson (photo credit: D. James Dee)

At a special event on April 1 at 6:30 pm in room 217 of the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building, Martin will present a gallery talk in which she discusses the intersection of contemporary craft and humor. For more details and to RSVP: kcad-humor-in-craft.eventbrite.com.

Humor in Craftopens March 4 and will run through April 17. The Fed Galleries are open to the public Tuesday – Saturday: 10am-5pm, or by appointment. As always, admission is free of charge. For more information on the exhibition, visit kcad.edu/events/humor-in-craft.

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