The vocational artist




Valdez, Jason Lucas


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Artists are vocational workers in the truest sense of the term. Contrary to the popular stereotype of “waiting for inspiration to strike”, they spend long hours in their studios creating something from nothing using a combination of learned skills, and in many cases, pure physical labor. It is the goal of this paper to present visual artists in their true form as skilled tradespeople, my personal experiences of seeing the vocational trades being downplayed in my community, and to pay respects to workingmen and women. Throughout this thesis we will look at the shared history of vocational trades and visual arts, common characteristics between the two, and the sociological theory of William Morris about the nature of work and production. The formation of guilds, organizations based around a common practice, dates back to the Middle Ages when skilled workers would join together in order to gain control over their particular craft.
The visual arts also share some characteristics with the trades. One of the most obvious is the satisfaction of creating something tangible. A mechanic can work for eight hours and at the end of the day see the physical result of his/her labor. These concepts can be further explained in the work of William Morris (1834-1895). In his essay, Art, Labor, and Socialism, he argues that art is the “pleasure in the labor of production”. He goes onto divide art making into three elements; variety (creating something new, then modifying it), hope of creation (the knowledge that your work could not exist without your hand), and the self-respect felt from creating something of value.

For my thesis show I’ve created a body of work comprised of common working class materials. I have used the image of the diesel and “straight six” gasoline engines as symbols of the blue-collar work ethic. Diesel motors are known for their longevity and durability which is why I felt they would be the best representation of the what I like to call the “Die Hard Spirit”; workingmen and women who toil everyday, rain or shine, so we can have things like electricity and running water. I’m also exploring the deeper levels of meaning that come from my use of materials; the idea that I’m working within my chosen trade, using the materials of the trades to make work about tradesmen.


A thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of MASTER OF FINE ARTS in STUDIO ART from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.


Drawing, Painting, printmaking, studio art



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