Monday, April 12, 2010

What is folk art?

I was perusing a magazine from the 1980's that had an article asking the question, "What is folk art?". From what I gather in this article back then there was the start of a revolution in folk art. Up until this time it seems that folk art was considered art of the common man, created by craftspeople not educated towards art. Weather vanes, bird decoys, quilts and the like, if antique could bring prices of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Take the case of the man who created a weather vane out of a pine board. He created it to replace one that had been stolen from his barn. After a few years it had weathered and worn to a nice patina. When he sold the farm antiques dealers approached the new owners and one eventually bought the 8 year old weather vane. As an antiques dealer himself he happened to be flipping through a trade magazine and spotted a photo of his weather vane up for sale. He contacted the dealer and found that the piece had been sold at an astounding $7,500 and that the dealer claimed the piece was  an early century piece. There were other examples sited with prices for such pieces of up to $200,000 for a duck decoy and so on. The article went on to point out though that new artists were coming out with work that resembled that of the past. To distinguish between the early American folk art, and the now "contemporary" folk art wasn't always easy and has become increasingly hard as people have become quite adept at reproductions.
Today you see a flood of folk art and primitives on the market, most of it newly made and reproductions. Is it of value? To some yes, and to those who create it of course. The value comes in what the consumer wants. When prices for something such as a carved indian statue went up to triple digit prices most collectors couldn't afford those prices so they started looking for less expensive, but equally well done pieces. Does that lessen the value of the originals and antiques? And is it folk art? I think in today's culture that has changed. What do you think?


anotherlinda said...

Thanks for that interesting article! I LOVE that folk art painting with all the autumn colors! Thank you Sheryl!

Sheryl Parsons said...

Thank you Linda! You are a master at folk art yourself. I love your work and the way you paint.