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The Queue: L Autumn Gnadinger

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

The Queue: L Autumn Gnadinger

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
Winter 2023 issue of American Craft magazine
Portrait of L Autumn Gnadinger
Blog post cover graphic for The Queue L Autumn Gnadinger
Cover of the Winter 2023 issue of American Craft magazine

Welcome to the inhabit series of The Queue.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the pages of American Craft magazine. Our Winter 2023 issue (cover pictured right) is centered on the theme inhabit and will start hitting mailboxes in November! Join now to reserve your copy. In The Queue, we invite the inspiring individuals featured in this issue to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

A critical eye toward craft.
L Autumn Gnadinger teaches at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and writes for and edits Ruckus, an online journal focusing on art in the South and Midwest. A lifelong DIYer, they learned the importance of creating their own worlds early in life. This led them to fall in love with craft, which, they say, is “a way to invent and alter the most basic building blocks of our lives.” They wrote the essay “Craft and Its Writing as Collectivized Outsider,” a finalist for the 2022 Lois Moran Award for Craft Writing, which is reprinted in the Winter 2023 issue of American Craft. | @lgnadinger

Portrait of L Autumn Gnadinger.

L Autumn Gnadinger. Photo by Savanna Barnett.

How would you describe your practice in 50 words or less?
I think about my practice as overlapping spheres of artmaking, writing, teaching, and play. In recent years, I have tried to pivot away from easily salable, beautiful, and archive-ready work in favor of murkier and performance-based things. I make a lot of ceramic “instruments” that sound like farts.

In “Craft and Its Writing as Collectivized Outsider” in the Winter 2023 issue of American Craft, you write, “The risk here, of art fully absorbing craft, is that tangible, practical knowledge of craft skill and history will be lost over time because the art world really only cares about the idea of, and reference to, craft, not its actual knowledge.” Tell us more about what you see at risk.
The art and craft worlds have related but distinct goals. In my experience, the craft world is guided by an interest in the teaching of certain skills and the building of a shared literacy of those skills. By contrast, the art world is a much larger structure steered by international market forces, with a particular interest in the ways that objects, ideas, and celebrities can stand in as assets for the super-wealthy. Increasingly, it seems there is a temptation to make craft as artlike as possible through our language, exhibition models, and a fixation on individual practitioners. I think it is incredibly important for those of us involved in either art or craft to remember the ways these spheres overlap but are fundamentally different. By continuing to encourage the craft world to play by the rules of the art world, it will steadily trade away its resources for not much in return.

Art installation by L Autumn Gnadinger
Close-up of Art installation by L Autumn Gnadinger

TOP AND ABOVE LEFT: L Autumn Gnadinger, Department of Transdimensional Musicology and New Religious Practices; Workers Union, 2022, roomscale multimedia installation. RIGHT: Gnadinger with one of their ceramic instruments. Photos courtesy of the artist.

L Autumn Gnadinger holding a handmade ceramic wind instrument
Art installation by L Autumn Gnadinger.

L Autumn Gnadinger, A Most Important Meal, 2019, press-molded ceramic tile, mortar, sanded grout, various collected materials, 11 x 9 ft. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Tell us about your favorite writing and research on craft.
My preferred craft writings have less to do with what we now call craft—as there is still so little actionable writing published on this subject anyway—and much more to do with basic issues and strategies of class struggle, which I feel is central to craft’s past and future identity—if it is to have one at all.

Which artists, craft exhibitions, or projects do you think people should know about, and why?
I think I have a very different definition and vision of what craft is compared to most people. For example, I spend a lot of time considering the ways in which indie video games could be generatively viewed as craft. I’m fascinated by the way they effortlessly blend the spheres of art and life through their use in personal spaces, the way they mediate experiences through interactive hardware, and their inherently collaborative nature. This tendency to blend, or “collapse” the separation between art and life (to quote the historical avant-garde) is one of the ways I prefer to define what craft is and can be in the future. Overall, I wish more craft-involved people—especially those who feel the most reluctant to play video games in their personal lives—would at least give them a chance, critically speaking.

Image of art performance by L Autumn Gnadinger

L Autumn Gnadinger, Field Test, 2021, 2:45 video performance, ceramic satellite dish, live AR audio manipulation, flat patterned lab coat. Image courtesy of the artist.

If you could meet with any craft artist for future writing or research, who would it be and why?
I also unfashionably consider technology designers and producers to be people worthy of learning from and interpreting in a craft context. I would love to sit down one day with the many people who run projects like Adafruit Industries, such as their founder Limor Fried (aka Ladyada), whose products I use often in my own work.

If today you could have any craft artist’s work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
When I am in the unusual position of having enough money and space to afford new work, I must admit I really just like to buy stuff from my friends. The work of Kento Saisho, Katherine Toler, and Amy Shindo all come to mind as people whose things I desperately want more of but who are also fascinating and intelligent people that I have the luxury of speaking with often about craft, food, video games, and life.

Footed Vessel by Kento Saisho

Kento Saisho, Footed Vessel, 2022, steel, graphite. 7 x 11.5 x 7 in. Photo by Kento Saisho.

stack of four issues of american craft with the fall 2022 issue on top

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MFA Fiber and Material Studies School of the Art Institute of Chicago