Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Case for Collecting Folk Art

I can make a strong case for collecting folk art. There are many reasons why I am an enthusiastic collector of both traditional and contemporary folk art. Here's a few of them!

Affordable.  With exceptions, folk art is affordable. Yes, it can get expensive if you're considering a piece of folk art that is also "antique" or traditional. Some folk artists have become very popular and their prices reflect that popularity. Maud Lewis is perhaps the prime example.  However, on balance contemporary folk art can be accommodated within even a modest budget. The trick is to train your eye so that you can recognize a good piece of folk art.

Varied Forms. Folk art comes in many different forms. Paintings on canvas and wooden panels are perhaps most common. But folk artists will apply their art to just about any object. Joe Norris was well known for painting his beautiful maritime scenes on various types of chairs, tables, blanket chests, even fireplace mantels. Folk artists will paint other objects around their homes and have been known to paint murals on the entire wall! Now, that's a tough item to collect!  Textiles, wood carvings, signs, metal work, shells - the list of objects and materials used by folk artists is a long one.  One can focus on a particular type of object or collect across the entire range of material. In my upcoming book Folk Art in the Attic, there are several chapters that describe in detail some of my major folk art finds. Hey! The book's called Folk Art in the Attic and that's probably the key chapter in the book!

Unique. While many of the themes or subject matter are repeated in folk art, every artist's interpretation of a subject or theme is unique.  Admittedly, some folk artists who sell their work tend to favour the creation of items that they know are popular. So, to that extent one will see similar works by the same artist. Still, their production is limited. Some folk artists though have become commercially successful and their work is reproduced on a much larger scale.  However, I would recommend collecting original folk art. I would rather have one original piece by a folk artist than a house full of reproductions.

Unpredictable:  The one aspect I enjoy most about collecting folk art is that it's so unpredictable. You never know when and where you might find a new piece for your collection.  Folk art can turn up at flea markets, auctions, yard and estate sales, church basement sales, just about anywhere you find objects being offered for sale. Few experiences in collecting are as exciting as recognizing and acquiring a good piece of folk art.  Yesterday, while picking, I came across two paintings by a folk artist who was completely new to me. I don't think anyone outside his family is aware of his work and yet if the two paintings I saw yesterday were any indication, this man is a major folk art talent.  More on this artist in another post.

If you find a piece a folk art for your collection, let me know. I'd love to see a photo!  I should add the the items shown in the accompanying photographs were all purchased at flea markets or garage sales in the last year at very reasonable prices.  If you wish to reserve a copy of my upcoming book Folk Art in the Attic simply send an email to shaunmarkey@rogers.com. No money is required as this time.

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