Sunday, October 7, 2012

Picasso vs. Folk Art

 Picasso would have competition as Folk Artist of the Year today. I have run into some good ones in the past years when we do pottery shows.

Anna Mary Robertson
Grandma Moses.
I guess Grandma Moses was the first widely acclaimed American  Folk Artist. She never painted anything until she was 76.  Born in 1860, and living to be 101, she left images of a life in rural Vermont that only she could remembered. I remember seeing her story in the Weekly Reader in grade school!

I love this quote by Gandma Moses: "If you know somethin' well, you can always paint it .but people would be better off buyin' chickens". 

That's what folk art is all about. It's very personal, sometimes humorous, more primitive than some can appreciate. It can be  very deep and expressive. I think it's the only way some people can articulate their true inner self. We all strive to do that. Why did Grandma Moses decide to paint? Ask Virginia Shields why she started watercolor at 70, or my self started pottery at 50. Just something that needed doing, I guess.

Thunder Storm by Grandma Moses

Maurice Cook is one of my favorites. There isn't a wall in our house that doesn't have at least one playful Maurice Cook painting. I even have one original! His paintings are mostly of the black community around Carbon Hill where he spent his childhood. Interestingly he doesn't put faces on his people. That's you're job. One of my favorites is entitled  Sunday's Sermon.  It's pictures a Bar B Que and dance party in the backyard on a Saturday night.

He and his wife, Ester, make our weekend when we chance to meet at a do a Art Festival. Once, as they set up next to us, he painted a beautiful 50's Chevy truck in a picture. I came back to check the progress of the painting an hour later, and the truck had dents and scrapes all over it. I told him he had ruined a perfectly good truck. Maurice's comment was. "Hey, man, it's a fishing truck, see them poles and the dog"!

Maurice painting at a show. 

Another local Athens favorite is Peter Loose, Mr. Pete, as most people know him.  Pete's stray dog, Bongo, was possibly the most loved dog in Athens. Bongo was immortalized in a kid's book in a book called Bongo is a Happy Dog.

Michael, Janice's son, called tonight to say that Thomas (grand boy) read Bongo is a Happy Dog to him before going to bed...roll reversal. Pete swears Bongo wrote the book, an he did the pictures. Pete's wife, Sandy put it together, as neither Bongo or Pete could ever sit still that long. I've heard it told that Bongo paid more taxes than the Pete the first years the book was printed.

Pete uses a variation of Australian Aboriginal "dot" painting, and interesting background material. I always love his painted frames.

Peter has and old Ford pickup that has been an artist pallet for many years. You can't miss it, it's a rolling piece of folk art. The truck is gonna' have to be put in a museum, or an air conditioned garage, as the paintings on it are worth far more than the truck. Some might not agree.

Bongo in the snow by Peter loose

 Howard Finster, creator of Paradise Gardens in Trion, Ga. is probably the most famous of the modern folk artist.

Howard Finster, a self portrait

Howard's bicycle repair tool in sidewalk
Howard was a bicycle mechanic, and lay preacher. So the story goes, a drop of red paint dripped off a paint brush with which he was using to paint a bike. The drip spoke to him, telling him to paint and do the Lord's work. Paint he did. He did at least on album cover for a famous group in the 70's. My favorite was his rendition of the Tower of Babel created out of old bicycle frames. It must be 30 feet high, and people used to climb it. His old bicycle tools he inlaid in a concrete pathway. He was prolific all his life, painting on anything from cardboard to plywood...always with a message.

One of the many structures in Paradise Garden
howard was fascinated with Elvis, doing a number of paintings of his hero. He was fond of Coca Cola, and in one painting people are falling off a volcano into a lake of fire. The caption is "There ain't no Coke in Hell".
he live to a ripe old age, and his children have tried to keep the tradition, but they haven't the pizzazz the old man had.

R. A . Miller is another favorites, He drew mainly on tin roofing and such, although I have an R. A. painted on a plastic house trailer shutter. He was famous for his quirky Blow Oscar design, and his windmills. I have one windmill that is built out of a bicycle wheel that has run for 25 years. I grease the bearings once a year.

Typical R. A Miller painting

A Blow Oscar

 I used to enjoy driving by his place across the street from the Rabbit Town Cafe, and watching 30 or so primitive windmills dancing in the wind. I'm glad I got to hang out with him.

I met another favorite folk artist this weekend. Corlie Hardman. Corlie, and her mother, do some interesting paintings on tin. Buy 'em when you see 'em, they'll be like money in the bank!

Support you local folk artists...there's a Picasso out there waiting to be discovered. You might score a garage sale special that you hear about on Antique Road Show. You don't know why you bought just spoke to you.

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