Every two years, the Whitney Museum of American Art displays one of the largest installments of American contemporary art, addressing issues of economic inequalities, racial tensions, and radical politics. The politically charged sphere provides a space for the viewer to contemplate and realize issues raised by artists. While perusing through the diverse collection of works, we stumbled upon a particularly interesting piece of art embodying the philosophy of handmade techniques strongly upheld at Deepa Gurnani.
Matt Browning’s identical hand carved sculptures (pictured above) seem fairly trivial at first glance. However, its true meaning is only revealed once the viewer learns of its story. Although his grids look alike and almost factory produced, Browning hand carved each grid from a single block of wood, championing the handmade technique. His work responds to the disregard for crafts such as weaving and stitching, a kind of labor that has been replaced by mass producing factories. He attempts to reignite the value of traditional handmade techniques by investigating the reconciliation of traditional craft with modernist abstractions. Furthermore, his use of folk techniques to create modern manufactured forms displays a marriage between the traditional and the contemporary.
Browning’s ideals mirror Deepa Gurnani’s belief in the value and uniqueness of handmade products. We too defend the folk techniques of stitching and embellishing used in the making of our beloved wearable art. Even though our products may look identical, our Karigars (Artisans) have worked tirelessly to create perfect and indistinguishable jewelry. None of our pieces are mass produced, and each product is made by hand from start to finish, imbuing them with soul and uniqueness. To recognize the difference between factory produced and handmade is to recognize the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. We support the extraordinary efforts of our Karigars and like Matt Browning, greatly appreciate the traditional crafts industry and their attempt to adapt to contemporary design.