Art movements are usually associated with a specific school or group of
academic artists who, involved in the society, will lend their expertise and
technical training in in hopes of promoting their current faction into the
annals of art history.
Many of these campaigns were started centuries ago and were connected by some
thread to a preceding art movement. The artisans of these original camps brought
with them various degrees of formal art training; some even had the opportunity
for additional training by apprenticing with a current master.
This seemed to be the desired or required chain of protocol for all of the
artists of the classical or traditional movements who painted or sculpted for
profit and recognition. Most of these camps took place with in larger cities
where many peers and colleagues would establish colonies, studios and workshops
with concentration on public exhibitions and sales.
When an artist did decide to break away from an active, established movement it
was usually done with the ambition of establishing a newer, more modern form of
self-expression that would hopefully become the next recognized art movement.
As these artisans diligently worked on mastering their chosen medium, there were
many other individuals living outside the main cities in rural areas that due to
social, financial or personal position, were unable or unwilling to partake in
the strict stipulation imposed by the costly academic training.
These people often referred to as Naive Artists, Outsiders or Naifs were
actually to be more closely related to the craftsman than professional artisans.
Folk Artists did not usually subscribe to any particular movement but instead
chose to practice the styles and techniques that had been passed down from one
generation to the next and varied depending on their particular regions.
Folk Artists had very little if any, formal art training and opted to approach
their subject matter in a simple, non-scientific composition and perspective
that is usually a literal interpretation of their subject done in a flat,
non-perspective style and entails the use of bright, energetic colors.
The origin of folk art can be traced back to the late 1700's and early 1800's
when Rufus Hathaway (1767-1825) would travel the countryside offering his skills
as a portrait painter and furniture decorator. However, it was not until after
World War I that the true appreciation of American folk art began.
Folk Art can actually be considered an umbrella term as it can define a
diversity of mediums and material used to express the artist's view. One such
category encompasses any medium that can be applied to canvas, paper, cardboard
or any other paper by- products. This would include mediums such as oils, tempra,
watercolors, pencils and pastels.
Folk Sculpture, on the other hand defines any work actually created through the
use of manual construction such as carved headstones, painted and carved signs,
weather vanes and ships figureheads as well as other hand-made artifacts such as
quilts. Regardless of the chosen mediums and the techniques the one common bond
among all of the folk artists was that all works are to be created through a
natural and simplistic technique.
For many years, folk artists were thought to be nomadic and untrained. In the
earlier years of the Folk Artists many of these people were either imprisoned or
institutionalized for their emotional challenges and had no formal art training
what- so - ever and were not producing art for profit, hence, they were not
considered to be among the true artists.
Of course, in today's politically correct America, and the fact that people are
no longer truly isolated from society, many of the negative sounding terms have
been abandoned. With the exception of the second group that include such artists
as Howard Finster (1916- 2003) and Thornton Dial (1928-) who are noted for their
use of a raw, almost childlike expression when portraying their highly
individual points of view and social standings.
Considered somewhat eccentric, these self-taught artists and sculptors are
considered "outsiders" or "isolates" only because their works are created
outside the traditional techniques that are generally associated with folk art,
but none-the-less, have a positive impact on today's art.
The first and perhaps the most widely accepted category of folk art is that of
memory painting. These portrayals were done by the older, self-taught artists
such Grandma Moses (1860-1961) and Mattie Lou O'Kelley (1908-1997) who painted
scenes of their earlier lives, that more than likely carried an overture of
ruralism and were done with simplicity. These artists had also opted not to
portray many of the twentieth-century changes that have occurred in both the
transportation and communications fields.
In the 21st Century, Folk Art is no less important today than it had been in the
1700 and 1800 hundreds. We continue to find evidence of folk art in quits,
basketry, hand-made boxes and carved, collectable signs.
Although, in today's market, folk art is not merely used as a form of
self-expression, it is also done with the intention of gaining profit from their
sales. Antique stores, yard sales and estate sales will often time have
artifacts from the earlier Folk Artists for sale at nominal prices.
Who knows, maybe if you climb into that dusty old attic or sneak down into that
musty aged basement of your grandparents, you may find stashed in that old
mildewing box an interesting piece of American Folk Art.
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