Monday, May 22, 2017
The Folk Artist
I became a folk artist by default during the summer of my senior year in college. Student teaching would not commence unless I satisfied a single remaining academic credit hour. Sister Mary Lois O.P., esteemed professor and formidable ruling chair of the art department at the Catholic college I attended suggested an independent study agreement to fulfill my obligation. We met in early June, contracted, and went our separate ways. The path I took entertained a glorious summer of beaches, boyfriends, and bars - my last as a single, non-working girl.
On or about the first of August the party was over. I had two (2) weeks to produce a compendium of two (2) month's "Craft Work in America" research and two (2) representative studio originals. What followed was a desperate around-the-clock whirlwind of designing, fabric prep and constructing. I recruited help from mother and two sympathetic sisters, paying the latter to hook and stitch with me on an awkward little rug and a wall banner of many primitive patches. Grabbing sides, we'd feverishly attack, hoping to meet in the middle by the moment the clock struck midnight on Portfolio Day.
On that morning I slunk into Sister's office, laid the goodies on her desk and inwardly cowered in fear. "I don't think she's gonna buy this stuff!"
But I was wrong.
"Ohhh," Sister breathed, radiating an approving smile, "Folk Art!" I picked myself up off the floor, scrambled to recover and solemnly muttered, "Yes, Sister." (blessmefatherforIhavelied....a lot!) "I have indeed chosen Folk Art as my independent study topic."
Folk Art, they say, is characterized by its unschooled nature. It disregards the niceties of tedious things like formal/informal balance and spatial relationships, yet it still manages to please. Forgiving many things, it is, apparently, friendly to those in a hurry, to those in need of lessons in honesty, and to those suffering guilt wrought by a procrastinating nature. The genre also fondly welcomes those who simply enjoy immortalizing the creatures with whom they share their laps and the pillows on their beds. It is a means of expression that has, indeed, been forgiving and friendly to me. And today, many decades beyond our first awkward encounter, I enjoy being friendly right back to it!