By Sally Friedman Correspondent
PHILADELPHIA — If ever you doubted that craft was an art form, you might want to head directly to the exhibition sponsored by the Philadelphia Museum of Art this month.
The Pennsylvania Convention Center will be the site of 37th annual contemporary craft show, which runs from Thursday through Sunday, with a Preview Party Gala on Wednesday.
The venerable museum show reminds skeptics and doubters that craft is indeed an honored art form with which the institution is proudly conversant. And for good reason.
The pieces made by craft artists have started to take their place alongside the paintings and sculptures that museum-goers expect to see, and are a legitimate and respected form of artistic expression.
The show, presented by the Museum’s Women’s Committee and the Craft Show Committee, is based on a comprehensive juried selection to which 1,000 artists applied this year.
Out of that pool, 195 craft artists were selected. in various categories, including basketry, ceramics, fiber (decorative) and fiber (wearable).
Also in the craft mix are furniture, glass, precious and semiprecious jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper and wood.
A special component of the current show is its nod to artists from Lithuania who are featured in a Guest Artist Program that began in 2001. Since then, a single country and its craft artists are selected each year, and have included Finland, Israel and Japan, among others.
This year’s show will feature the one-of-a-kind handmade work by 23 of Lithuania’s finest craft artists.
Much closer to home, the show has special meaning for craft artist Coco Paniora Salinas of Hainesport, who is proud to be showing his works at the show.
“For thousands of years, stones, seeds, shells and other organic materials have been used in Peruvian ceremonial offerings to Pachamama, the goddess of Mother Earth, said Salinas, a native of Peru.
The artist draws his own inspiration from Mother Earth in his one-of-a-kind hand-woven pieces. He uses metals and/or hand-knotted fiber in his work, and always natural materials. The name of his company, Rumi Sumaq, translates into “beautiful stones” in Quechua, the native Indian language of Peru.
“In my work, stones have a voice, the spirit of Pachamama is evoked, and there’s harmony in the universe,” said Salinas, whose jewelry pieces are aglow with vibrant colors and unusual textures.
The range of crafts at the annual show is vast and wide, and visitors can explore the diverse styles and deeply personal statements translated into craft pieces by the participating artists.
The win-win for visitors to the show: proceeds not only allow buyers to own or gift others with the works of the finest craft artists in the country; they also help to support the museum.
Past shows have raised $11 million to fund projects at the Philadelphia landmark.