I am a fan of functional art; and one of my favorite poems is itself a work of functional art--its function being to explain an urn—which, in turn, is another piece of functional art. The poem is John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn"; and the urn, of course, is the functional piece the poem explains; and the urn's function, in addition to holding whatever it might hold, is to be "a friend to man" to whom it communicates through its "still" existence. ("Still" has at least two meanings, but I resist the temptation to explicate this lovely poem.)
This past week, I have been in Mississippi, wisely leaving Michigan the day before yet another winter storm would strike and driving to where the temperature was 75 degrees. One of the most enjoyable aspects of a trip to Mississippi is the chance to visit Merigold, Mississippi, the home McCarty Pottery. http://mccartyspottery.com/
The photo on the right shows McCarty pieces in a table setting in the Gallery Restaurant in Merigold.
Incidentally, to see one of my favorite functional artists, I do not need to leave Kalamazoo. Sue Caulfield, whose rich career includes many roles at Western Michigan University, is a functional artist whose work in fabrics, like McCarty pottery, emphasizes the intimate connection between functional art and the body--something that for many people gives rise to anxiety and causes the devaluation of functional art and the elevation of art that can claim to be functionless, although if I wished, I could easily argue that all art is functional. http://strandsofcommonthread.com/ I am planning a longer post on Sue and her work shortly.
I returned from Mississippi with a piece of McCarty pottery that I already love because it has so many functions--it might be a planter, it might just sit quietly and serve only the function of giving rise to the contemplation of potential, or it might--as it will for awhile--be a waste paper container, reminding again of the intimacy to which functional art gives rise. I have taken the liberty of photographing it in Mississippi and alluding to Wallace Stevens' "Anecdote of a Jar," another poem I will resist explicating.