The following article was originally printed in “Antiques and Art” magazine, July / August 1977 issue. It was written by Nora Sterling and Jackie Kalman. This article serves as a useful introduction to folk art, and it is also interesting to note how much folk art has grown in recognition and popularity over the past thirty years.
CANADIAN FOLK ART
Donald Hays is such a folk artist. Carving since he was five years old, he is .now in his early 40s and an engineer by profession. He carves bird decoys which he paints with the incredible expertise and attention to detail of an Audubon. With the true artist's eye, he chooses those idiosyncratic stances and important characteristics that are peculiar to the bird he is carving.
On the other hand, Collins Eisenhauer, a folk artist who, like Grandma Moses, has "made it," did not start intensive wood carving until 1964, when he was 66 years old. When asked what he did for a living in the '30s, Eisenhauer replied, " I wouldn't like to tell you! " He does admit, however, to being a farm hand, a logger and a sailor. His work has been bought by the Museum of Man, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the National Gallery in Ottawa.
Though carved from big hunks of wood, his figures still have a two dimensional look about them. They have the static and stiff quality which is characteristic of naive art - as if the artist does not want to risk a trial of skill to depict movement.
Charles Tanner, an ex-fisherman from Nova Scotia, approaches the task of carving with even a lesser degree of academic knowledge of the craft of sculpture than Eisenhauer. He solves his technical problems simply, by a complete disregard of detail and a disrespect for proportion which, in effect, enhance his work. One is struck by his bold personal style - exuberant, colourful and direct. His sculptures are now on tour with an exhibit of Canadian art assembled by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
At this juncture, decoys became folk sculpture. The link with the folk genre lies in the carver's craftsmanship and especially in his personal interpretation of the salient characteristics of his quarry.
Sculpture is only one way in which the power and beauty of folk art is expressed. Rugs, quilts, paintings, furniture and accessories are among the wide variety of objects produced by folk artists.
Much has been written on folk art, albeit not Canadian. Many art historians, curators and artists have concluded that the expressions of folk art are world-wide and that they state universal truths - realities which will always be voiced by untrained people with a creative urge.
Bishop, Robert. American Folk Sculpture. New- York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1974.
Folk Sculpture U.S.A. Edited.by Herbert W. Hemphill Jr. The Brooklyn Museum and the Los kngeles County Museum of Art. Catalogue- for 1976 show.
Folk Art of Nova Scotia. Art gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Catalogue for show, November 1976 through May 1978. Biographies of artists and illustrations of their works.
Gladstone, M.J. A Carrot for a Nose:, the Form of Folk Sculpture on America's City Streets and Country Roads. New York: Charles Scribner's Song, 1974.
Hooked Rugs in the Folk Art Tradition. Museum of American Folk Art, New York. Catalogue for 1974 show.
Lipman, Jean and Winchester, Alice.The Flowering of American Folk Art, 1776-1876. New York: The Viking Press in cooperation with the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1974.
People's Art: Naive Art in Canada. J. Russell Harper. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Catalogue for, show, 1973-1974.
The April Antiques and Folk Art Show. Mel Shakespeare. Catalogue for the 1975 Bowmanville, Ontario, show.