As Gerald Pocius describes it, “Folk art is the material expression of a culture’s history, values, and traditions.” It is not the work of an individual artist, but of skilled artisans in a community who demonstrate a remarkable level of skill. In essence, folk art is material culture embodied in a handmade object. It is therefore the simplest form of art, but it still has enormous cultural significance.
While the term “folk art” is a category label, the term refers to art created outside the western intellectual tradition. It is not a definition of the object itself, but rather a label imposed by art critics and consumers who viewed the work in a different cultural context. This difference in context is particularly important for the development of the concept of folk art in contemporary societies. In addition to the cultural context, it is also important to note that the definition of folk art is often not as ‘authentic’ as the work of a traditional artist.
While contemporary self-taught artists may appear to be the most “individualistic” artists, the fact is that folk art is the most universal form of expression. Each artist brings his or her own distinctive personal signature to the work. This signature may be manifested through a sense of whimsy, a highly developed aesthetic identity, or a life largely confined to the context in which he or she was born.
Traditionally, folk art has been a non-commercial activity. However, some folk artists make a living by selling their work. For instance, blacksmiths, potters, cobblers, painters, goldsmiths, and brass-smiths all earn a living from their work. Similarly, weavers and needlewomen do not profit from their work, but make a living from it. This has created a national platform for them and greatly expanded the market for their work.
As folk art continues to grow, the field of culture and art is expanding. Professional folklorists have expanded their definition of what constitutes “folk” artifacts from various communities. Meanwhile, the fine-arts community has been concentrating on isolated objects that could be used as museum displays, additions to private collections, and even pieces to sell. So, what does this mean for artists? Folk art is an expression of local identity.
Ruth Lorentzen is a self-taught folk artist, but has been creating pieces for over 40 years. In 1972, she started a commercial art business which included sign painting, illustrating, and designing logos. After some years, however, she phased out that work and began creating individualized pieces. Now, she participates in a number of trade shows and retail galleries throughout the country, and she lives in Connecticut. If you’d like to know more about Folk Art, read this article.
The exhibition is organized by the American Folk Art Museum and includes works from all different fields of folk art. The current exhibition, titled Multitudes, is on view until September 5, 2022. It features approximately 400 pieces, and it’s not in chronological order, but visually clusters them so that viewers can appreciate their unique individuality. This exhibition is a must-see for any collector. However, it’s also a good place to start if you’re interested in understanding the different styles and mediums of folk art.
The history of Folk Art is complex, but its roots lie in a common past. Throughout the ages, it has been used to document everyday life in rural areas, teach community members, and innovate outside the community. For example, Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s paintings and drawings of rural life have long been studied by folklorists. Today, these images are primarily used for decorative purposes, and their original functions have been replaced by literacy and the availability of printed materials.
Another popular type of Folk Art is toleware. This is a painted piece of tin, and the practice is often associated with Christmas. In fact, the technique of tole painting originated in the Welsh town of Pontypool during the 1660s, when Thomas Allgood was experimenting with metal plating. He invented a kind of varnish that would not corrode, and his invention became an instant hit. Throughout the 17th century, the practice of tole painting spread across the world.