Putting the Artist Back into Art I recently came across the website for the American Folk Art Museum which, although provides plenty of information and history of American folk art, left me with more questions than answers.
News-Antique.com - Dec 21,2007 - Art Market Blog - Putting the Artist Back into Art
I recently came across the website for the American Folk Art Museum which, although provides plenty of information and history of American folk art, left me with more questions than answers. Although I had a general idea of what Folk Art was before visiting the museum’s website, I had not really considered the place of folk art in the current art market and the circumstances that have resulted in a revival in the interest of Folk Art. The generally accepted definition of Folk Art is hand crafted artworks created by individuals that have had little or no formal artistic training that reflect the culture, tradition and heritage of a particular and identifiable social group. I find this definition to be a bit broad and unclear so I did some further research on the definition of the term “folk” which resulted in several meanings most of which are relevant to the definition of Folk Art.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary the definition of folk is: ‘The common people of a society or region considered as the representatives of a traditional (long established) way of life and especially as the originators or carriers of the customs, beliefs, and arts that make up a distinctive culture’. From this definition we can determine that Folk Art is the representation of a traditional way of life (lifestyle) and a reflection of the unique combination of traditions, beliefs, behaviours, customs, values, practices, legends and sociocultural structures that make up the lifestyle of a particular society of people. Another use of the term “folk” is to describe common, simple, or unsophisticated people who would only have access to the most basic or primitive tools, implements and materials with which to create an artwork which gives us another defining aspect of Folk Art. The final relevant application of the term “folk” is to indicate an anonymous artwork or an artwork of unknown origins which indicates that the identity of the artist is not as important as the object it’s self.
Having determined the factors and characteristics that define Folk Art I then began to explore Folk Art in the context of the art market. There seems to be an emerging trend in the art world of artists pursuing a very artificial form of perfection. This pursuit of perfection is not an artist’s personal attempt to create what they would perceive as their ultimate artwork or the most artistically beautiful work, it is a pursuit of a manufactured perfection that is polished, sterile, clean, artificial, mechanical and void of any evidence of human involvement. The Chinese have a philosophy when it comes to art that the particular outward appearance of things, or indeed their accuracy, was of secondary importance to capturing the essence and spirit of the subject. Some Chinese artists even went to the extreme of deliberately including a small error in each of their works to emphasise the “human” nature of their artistic pursuits.