Amy Goldin awarded National Endowment Critic’s Grant and travels to Islamic world

Amy Goldin Art Critic Passport

In 1972, Goldin received a National Endowment Critic’s Grant.  She commuted to Harvard to take courses from noted Islamicist, Oleg Grabar.  Here she found an intellectual basis and a world of information on an art form for which the term decoration is in no way a pejorative.

In the spring of 1974, Professor Grabar helped her to prepare an itinerary for a ten week journey through Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, providing her with a letter of introduction from Harvard University which, with a well placed gold seal and red ribbon, opened many doors. Robert Kushner was her travel companion. Together they traveled off the beaten path, experiencing  directly the culture, monuments, historical mosques and public buildings. Her candid journals of this trip are in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian.  Following that trip, many of Amy Goldin’s strongest essays showed a  new perspective and urgency.

Amy writes:

“Seeing what Islamic artists have produced, I became convinced that there is, in what we call decoration, an artistic alternative to art . . . that latches onto the world in a radically different way.  Decoration involves the maker in a relationship to the world around him that is much more intimate and practical than the specialized, alienated world of professional art.  Decoration doesn’t lead itself to artistic ego trips or to scientific abstract thought. Instead of seeing yourself as the unacknowledged legislator of the world, you face the requirements of our own environment. The setting of our own life and the feelings of people around you.  Your job is to clarify and heighten the impact of objects and occasions that already exist, that already nave meaning. And that  function requires quite different kinds of attention and sensitivity than you usually find among artists.”[1]

[1] Unpublished notes, Amy Goldin archive. Reel 1403, Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

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