Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Folk for Free

well more like Folk for Suggested Donation but darn close. It is a rarity when one exceptional exhibition comes along to The American Folk Art Museum that grabs our attention, yet right now they host two, dare we say sensational exhibitions.

Folk art is generally produced by people who have little or no academic artistic training, nor a desire to emulate "fine art", and use established techniques and styles of a particular region or culture. Along with painting, sculpture, and other decorative art forms, some also consider utilitarian objects such as tools and costume as folk art.

The first of the two is Earl Cunningham's America, which in short is a selection of 50 vibrantly brilliant coastal landscapes from memory. Cunningham left his family at age 13 and lived his life traveling by sea and getting by tinkering & peddling anything he could obtain. He was self-taught as an artist and had a tenancy to create childlike atmospheres within his painting all while saturating his canvas with a mastery of color palettes. However the true beauty of Cunningham's work comes in the fanciful details, upon further examination you begin to see odd combinations "such as flamingos in Maine and Viking ships in Florida." Unfortunately it was Florida that saw Cunningham's demise as he opened a gallery & shop that was continually vandalized and later committed suicide in St. Augustine at age 84.


Far from the brilliant colors of Cunningham the Folk Museum also presents, at it's proper location the craziness and insanity of the minds of Henry Darger & contemporary influenced artist alike. For those not familiar with Darger and his life here is a brief summary in phrases; Born 1892, had some mental issues, settled in Chicago circa 1930, worked as a janitor for many years, died in 1973, landlords then discover fifteen, 145-page illustrated fantasy manuscripts called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is know as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, is then regarded as one of the foremost outsider artists in the world. Quite a story if we don't say, anyhow the concept of this exhibition is to highlight contemporary artists influenced by Darger's style & life but whom work within today's mainstream.

So go out and support the Folk Movement and for sure check out the wonderful gift shops at both locations, it's like walking through a time warp back to the golden oldies & wooden toys of yesteryear.


In more contemporary local folk/craft news, this weekend welcomes The Hearts & Crafts Affair at Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint. Information about this shindig is very limited all we know about it is there will be music, many crafts on offer and of course excpetional piping hott coffee to keep your hands & bodies warm. It looks to be an interesting afternoon in North Brooklyn and as the title of this post suggests, it's free.

We part with an old American folkism to get you thru the week; When you feel all steamed up, remember the tea kettle -- it is always up to it's neck in hot water and it still sings.

The Nutopia Crew


Miki said...

If anyone is interested in knowing more about Darger, there is a phenomenal documentary about his life called In the Realms of the Unreal. A must-see.

ed said...


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