American Folk Art
American Folk Art: A Regional Reference offers a collection of fascinating essays on the life and work of 300 individual artists. Some of the men and women profiled in these two volumes are well known, while others are important practitioners who have yet to receive the notice they merit. Because many of the artists in both categories have a clear identity with their land and culture, the work is organized by geographical region and includes an essay on each region to help make connections visible. There is also an introductory essay on U.S. folk art as a whole.||Those writing about folk art to date tend to view each artist as either traditional or innovative. One of the major contributions of this work is that it demonstrates that folk artists more often exhibit both traits; they are grounded in their cultural context and creative in the way they make work their own. Such insights expand the study of folk art even as they readjust readers' understanding of who folk artists are.
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American Folk Art: A Regional ReferenceUser Review - Book Verdict
Famous or obscure, the 300 artists recognized in these volumes attest to the creative imagination of the 20th-century folk movement. A short introduction, with a useful bibliography, helps set the works discussed in historical and contemporary context. The regional organization reflects the influence of place. A thoughtful overview of physical, historical, and cultural features precedes groupings on the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West. The range of artwork included is impressive: decoys, textiles, paintings, baskets, carvings, boats, mosaics, assemblages, pottery, dolls, metal, paper, musical instruments, wax, beads, photography, saddles, and "environmental art," inter alia. There are also engaging artist entries, which are both biographical and art-critical. While numerous black-and white illustrations are provided and accompanied by informative captions, unfortunately, for about 20 percent of the artists, no work is displayed. Additional illustrations are not available in the ebook version, but almost all illustrations are in full color there, a significant bonus. The writers argue that the art they present is simultaneously innovative and traditional. Congdon (Univ. of Central Florida; Just Above the Water) and Hallmark (Univ. of Texas, Austin; Art Education for Social Justice) are knowledgeable and write clearly. Since a work of this size could not aim for comprehensiveness, more insight into the editors' selection criteria, especially of lesser-known artists, would have been useful. An index helps users find reproductions and references outside the specific artist entry. A glossary, a museum list, and extensive print bibliographies round out the presentation. VERDICT These volumes, celebrating human inventiveness and identifying artists whose work deserves regard, are as worthwhile for inspiring potential folk artists as for researchers.—Patricia Lothrop, St. George's Sch., Newport, RI