Harwood Museum

of the University of New Mexico

Taos, NM


Harwood Facade, photo by John Rudiak, 1998


OBJECTS: Five Master Craftsmen


The Harwood Museum announces the upcoming special exhibition Objects: Five Master Craftsmen opening February 21, 1999 and on view through May 9, 1999. Curated by Gus Foster, the exhibition features the work of Brian Anderson, John C. MacArthur, Kurt Mottweiler, Phil Poirier and Michael Walker. These five artists, all residents of Taos, are considered Master Craftsmen because of their dedicated and relentless pursuit of the ideal. Russell Young writes in the forward to the exhibition catalogue, "The master craftsman may make at most a very limited edition of his original design . . . In the procession of items from their workshop each design exceeds its predecessor. This constant striving for improvement is one of the central marks of a master." While each artist specializes in his own area of expertise, they share years of apprenticeships and training, a mature knowledge of materials and processes, precise inventiveness, as well as an innate sense of perfection and design.

This exhibition, on view in the Peter and Madeleine Martin Foundation Gallery, features examples of refined designs, which are aesthetically pleasing and functionally superior. Meibao Nee, contributor to the catalogue, explains that Brian Anderson, a gunsmith, bladesmith, carpenter, tailor and shaper, has an extensive knowledge of the art of the blacksmith. Many of his objects are created in the historic manner of working directly with forge, hammer, knife and file to create designs which meld historic traditions with contemporary design. Each element, from the precision parts to the elegance and feel of perfected balance, is achieved through researching historical designs and painstakingly handworking his materials. Seventeen of Anderson's objects will be on view including jewelry, flasks, guns, and other beautifully designed objects.

John C. MacArthur is a master clockmaker. His interest and study of historical timepieces has provided him with the intimate knowledge of various types of time measuring devices. MacArthur's 8000-hour apprenticeship to a master clockmaker in 1965 was just the beginning of his studies. In 1970, he was certified as a journeyman clockmaker, since then, he has created a handful of "masterpieces." According to exhibition curator Gus Foster, the extraordinary skill involved to design, fabricate and finish a clock is astounding. The final product is aesthetically beautiful on the outside - yet inside the painstaking hand fabricated mechanisms are equally fine. MacArthur says that each movement takes approximately 1000 hours to make. Two of MacArthur's clocks, as well as five other objects from his studio, will be on display.

Kurt Mottweiler designs and builds cameras and lights. These objects, along with some of his other creations, all share a pure beauty not only in their functionality but also their excellence in design. According to Gus Foster, "Mottweiler has already designed a built half a dozen cameras . . . He is a master woodworker, luthier, machinist and computer expert capable of writing his own programming." Mottweiler's precision instruments have in fact been given patents - something shared with many of his fellow craftsmen.

Michael Walker. Gus Foster explains that Walker holds U.S. and foreign patents and has received numerous national and international awards for his knives. He is also involved with design for major manufacturers. Walker strives to achieve balance between form and function. His knives are breathtaking to behold. Five of his folding knives will be on view as well as a mixed-metal bolo tie.

Finally, Phil Poirier, master metalsmith, is known for pushing the limits of his materials. Having studied the designs and historic metal working techniques of Greek, Etruscan, Byzantine and Colonial America, Poirier has mastered the age-old methods of raising, tooling, chasing, casting and polishing. Poirier, like the other artists in the exhibition, has designed and fabricated many of his own tools which he uses to create his flawless objects. Poirier's ability to manipulate metal into fluid forms often embellished with precious gems, crystal, rare wood and seamless designs adds to the final perfection of his work.

The artists in this exhibition share a committed vision of perfection and beauty. They are true Master Craftsmen through their attitude and knowledge of their craft as well as sheer artistry in design and creation. A catalogue of the exhibition: Objects: Five Master Craftsmen organized by guest curator Gus Foster will be available through the Harwood Museum Gift Shop. Readers interested in contacting the artists may do so through the museum.

From top to bottom: Brian Anderson, top to bottom: Tankard, 197, brass, Grapes and a Leaf, 1975, iron; Brian Anderson, Flintlock Rifle, 1999, wood leather, iron, photos by the artist; John MacArthur, MacArthur No. 2, 1991, 15 x 18 x 78 inches, brass, steel, mercury, walnut, case by Ed Paul, private collection, photo by the artist; Kurt Mottweiler, Wooden Field Camera - Stereographic Version, 1982, 10 x 11 x 10 inches, Honduras mahagony, brass, hypalon, neoprene, coated cotton, collection of W. R. Young, photo by the artist; Michael Walker, "Crescent" model folding knife, 6.7 inches overall length, Zipper blade - titanium, stainless Damascus steel, Bladelock - gold, silver, meteorite, black mother-of-pearl, itanium, Utah private collection, photo by Pat Pollard; Phil Poirier, left to right: Grapevine Tea Glass, 1999, 7 x 4 inches, sterling silver, ebony, Nouveau Funnel, 1998, 3 x 3 inches, sterling silver, 18k gold, Nouveau Flask,1998, 3.5 x 5.5 inches, sterling silver, 18k gold, Burmese rubies, photo by the artist.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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