A few weeks ago we visited the Fearrington Folk Art Show, held each year just south of Chapel Hill, NC. This juried show includes over 30 artists and is one of the finest folk art shows in the Southeast. Definitions of what constitutes “folk art” vary, with some preferring the term “outsider art,” and still others preferring the term “vernacular art.” Call it what you will, the common theme is work by artists who either lack formal artistic training or who have rejected such training.
Art critics and folklorists can wrangle about the terminology, but the simple reality is that the show at Fearrington is a pure delight, filled with great artists who embrace beauty, color and expression. What follows is a sample of what we saw. All the artists agreed to have their photos and work displayed on this blog, and a heartfelt thanks to them.
Just inside the entrance is Missionary Mary Proctor from Tallahassee, Florida, where she runs the American Folk Art Museum and Gallery, a museum/workshop/studio dedicated primarily to her original paintings. As you might expect from her name, this self-taught artist sees her art as a spiritual calling, and often incorporates biblical scripture into her paintings. She's also fond of including found objects in her work, as in the "Music Makes the World Go Round" painting is on the left, which as several 45rpm records as part of this large, evocative work. (Click on the painting to see a larger image.)
Like many of the artists here, her work is featured in Raw Vision, a magazine dedicated to outsider art. Raw Vision’s Steve Kistulentz said this of Mary Proctor:
For years, Mary owned and operated Noah's Ark Flea Market; the name and the animals around her museum and gallery suggest her affinity for all of what she calls 'the Lord's creations.' Before turning to painting, Mary collected buttons, bottle caps, doll parts, costume jewelry, watches, and thousands of other small objects, filling her shop and her home with the small trinkets without having a specific purpose in mind. Then, in 1995, she says, the purpose was given to her in a vision.Just around the corner was Miz Thang’s booth. Miz Thang, who hails from Georgia, delves deeply into musical themes on her work– just as I walked up two people who knew her material came up and asked “do you have any Beatles paintings?” She paints on custom cut birch wood, using bright colors and working with her fingers rather than brushes. That’s her on the right, wearing the overalls, and that’s her painting of Frank Zappa on the left. Note how she sprinkles various song titles and phrases throughout her painting – “Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," "Peaches in Regalia," etc.
Tom Blunt's "Funky Folk Art" sports the wonderful motto "Art That Don't Match The Sofa," oh, so true. Reminds me of a comment my parents used to hear all the time. They owned a custom-framing shop and gallery that sold limited-edition prints, and people would often come in to buy things that matched the furniture. Ah, art as commodity. "Do you have anything to match my 1978 blue Barcalounger?" Anyway, Toms' work features brightly colored fish, three dimensional landscapes, fun and functional boxes adorned with more fish, collages with mystic imagery, and wearable art such as pins and buttons. He works from his studio in Richmond, Virginia. That's Tom on the left, below one of his tree-filled landscapes.
Finally, we solved the pressing and delightful question of "what will be bring home to hang over the mantel" when we came the St. Peter's Farm & Folk Art Studio booth. Tim & Lisa Kluttz run their studio in Salisbury, NC. We fell in love with the brightly colored dogs and angelic cats. Their flying dogs series is joy, but we decided that the Red Dog was coming home with us. Pictured below Lisa Kluttz, holding our puppy, who now hangs in our living room.