According to Edgar Allen Beem, an art critic and free-lance writer in Maine, in a June 11, 2008 article in Yankee Magazine, “Folk Art is the art of the people, a more humble manifestation of the human experience perhaps but much more authentic than much of the artifice that passes as fine art today”.
Characteristically folk art is not influenced by movements in academic or fine art circles, and, in many cases, folk art excludes works executed by professional artists and sold as “high art” or “fine art”. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. It was never intended to be ‘art for art’s sake’ at the time of its creation. Folk Art may be characterized by a naive style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective are not employed.
Folk art expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. The varied geographical and temporal prevalence and diversity of folk art make it difficult to describe as a whole, though some patterns have been demonstrated.
It encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms.
It may be learned formally or informally; folk art may also be self-taught. It is of, by, and for the people; all people, inclusive of class, status, culture, community, ethnicity, gender, and religion
Terms that might overlap with folk art are naïve art, tribal art, primitive art, popular art, outsider art, traditional art, tramp art and working-class art/blue-collar art. As one might expect, these terms can have multiple and even controversial connotations but are often used interchangeably with the term “folk art”.
The recent resurgence of the DIY movement and the internet’s most creative online marketplaces has allowed for spaces where contemporary folk art lives and thrives.
This exhibit presents folk art and more from the 1700’s through the present time. Some pieces may be considered “Naïve”, “Outsider” or “Tramp Art”. Others represent contemporary crafts and perhaps, even “Fine Art”. It includes a variety of media; basketry, quilts, pottery, scrimshaw, collage, silhouettes, paintings, wood and slate carvings, and stained glass. Some of the artist are self-taught and some have had formal training. All objects relate in some way to New Englanders.
Please also visit http://portsmouthhistory.org to learn about the New Hampshire Folk Art program (April 5 – Sept. 29) at Discover Portsmouth’s Academy Gallery.