The lines are blurry when considering folk art
I felt like I bit more than I could chew when I decided to write about folk art. The subject is huge with very blurred lines between artistic disciplines and even within itself.
Folk art is created by artists who have not had training in traditional art schools and by those who may not have received formal education at all. Folk art is not considered art like the works you would expect to see in a fine art museum and yet there are museums that only house folk art. Two major folk art museums in the United States are the American Folk Art Museum in New York and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Museum of New Mexico describes folk art as follows: “It is art that can be decorative or utilitarian, can be used everyday or reserved for large ceremonies, is handmade, and may include items made. by hand as well as new, synthetic or recycled components. It can be used within a community of practice or it can be produced for sale as a form of income or empowerment. It can be learned formally or informally, can be self-taught, can include tangible forms of expressive culture such as dancing, singing, poetry, and eating habits. It is traditional and reflects a shared cultural aesthetic and social issues.
It is recognized that because traditions are dynamic, traditional folk art can change over time and can include innovations in the tradition. It is from, by and for the people, everyone, including class, status, culture, community, ethnicity, gender and religion.
There are folk art museums all over the world, large and small, and many are dedicated to the art of the region or to a specific culture such as the Appalachian Folk Art Museum and a museum that showcases art. Norwegian of America.
The folk art, styles and motifs have inspired various artists. For example, Pablo Picasso was inspired by African tribal sculptures and masks. In 1951, artist, writer and curator Barbara Jones organized the “Black Eyes and Lemonade” exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London as part of the Festival of Britain. This exhibition, along with its publication “The Unsophisticated Arts”, featured popular and mass-produced consumer items alongside contemporary art in one of the earliest examples of the popularization of pop art in Britain.
And fine art museums such as our own St. Louis Art Museum have exhibits of folk art within their own walls. A few years ago, Melissa Wolfe, the in-house curator of the American Folk tour
The art museum exhibit, “Self-Taught Genius: Treasures of the American Folk Art Museum” wowed audiences with this beautifully installed exhibit. And just a few months ago, Amy Tolbert, associate curator of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for American Art, gave a talk titled “Women at Work: New Findings in American Folk Art.”
There are collectors of all types of folk art. One collector was Alexander Girard who was widely known in the field of American textile design. The Palm Springs Art Museum had a large exhibition of his work and featured parts of its folk art collection which is primarily housed at the Girard Foundation. One of the artists supported by Girard was Cochiti Pueblo potter Helen Cordero, the creator of storytelling pottery figurines.
Auction houses such as Christies are known to sell folk art for huge sums of money, and galleries across the country sell folk art of all kinds. Laurie Ahner of Galerie Bonheur, an international folk art gallery here in St. Louis along with other locations in Florida and North Carolina, says, “I find the general feeling of folk art refreshing, expressive and spiritual. . He speaks from the heart and the soul, and acclaims me every day of my life. Folk art expresses the world as the common man sees it, conveys the joy found in nature and the beauty of the world created by Gd. Folk art is full of such heartfelt feelings of faith and peace that have become hard to come by in our fast-paced, materialistic culture. “
Folk art goes way back in history and there are folk art societies that focus on contemporary works. In 1987, a group of 15 folk art enthusiasts gathered in Richmond, Virginia, with the goal of forming a loose-knit club. The group has grown from a small local organization to a national organization. The name of Folk Art Society of America was chosen at the initial meeting to eliminate the idea that art would be limited to American art. The mission statement of the organization is: “To promote the discovery, study, documentation, preservation and exhibition of folk art, folk artists and folk art environments, by highlighting emphasis on the contemporary.
Then there is the question of where folk art begins and ends. Some might include indigenous art under the rubric of folk art and there is art brut and naive art in which artists have little or no contact with the traditional art world. Outsider art often illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, and even fantasy worlds. All of these categories stem from the folk art tradition of being self-taught – generally!
And then comes Eric Lutz, associate curator of prints, drawings and photographs at the St. Louis Art Museum, who recently organized an exhibition of photographs by anonymous photographers called “Poetics of the Everyday: Amateur Photography, 1890-1970” and I thought this is off the beaten track, but I would classify the work as some kind of folk art.
The lines become even more blurry.
Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for over thirty years on numerous arts-related boards.