Explore the Wonderful World of Folk Art – Every Saturday

By Garth Kant

Jun 12, 2020

Among the treasures you can find every Saturday at Leigh Acres Flea Market are a number of fantastic examples folk art from around the world.

What is folk art?

It is art often produced by plain folk, not necessarily trained artists. It’s been called many things, including naïve art, tribal art, primitive art, popular art, outsider art, traditional art, tramp art, working-class art, and blue-collar art.

Folk art is often produced by laborers, tradespeople, or members of indigenous cultures. Unlike fine art, these works often have a purpose and are utilitarian rather than merely decorative. Folk art often does not use traditional rules of proportion or perspective – its charm is found in a simpler approach. It is simple, direct, colorful, and it is not necessarily intended to be “art for art’s sake.”

Folk art has such charm and appeal, however, it has become immensely popular with both the public and art collectors. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has works by more than 70 folk artists in its collection.

Folk art comes in many varieties. Examples include:

Weathervanes, store signs, carved figures, portraits, carousel horses, fire buckets, painted game boards, cast iron doorstops, baskets, dolls, furniture, lacquerware, ceramics, pottery, stoneware, leatherwork, metalwork, knives, mosaics, jewelry, stained glass, quilts, decoys, picture frames, and toys.

Folk art is typically made by people using whatever is available, including inexpensive and cast-off materials such as wood, metal, clay or fabric scraps.

Folk art became recognized as a special category of art in the late 19th Century. It became valued as representative of the simple life lived by the common people. Hand-crafted with traditional tools, folk art has great appeal for urbanites who want to preserve their cultural heritage. At first considered “peasant art”, folk art is now prized as an expression of the world’s traditional cultures. That includes arts that represent the ethnicity and traditions of native peoples as well as pioneers and homesteaders.

Folk artists are not usually trained in the formal fine art tradition. They are mostly from rural areas and are either self-taught or learn techniques handed down through the generations. Part of the tradition is learning by watching others, although some young artists do serve apprenticeships. Folk art is credited with helping preserve the beliefs and customs of ethnic minorities, as well communities living apart from the mainstream, such as the Amish.

Folk art painting has had a particularly strong influence on many modern artists including Picasso, who was inspired by African tribal sculptures and masks. Folk art painting has always had some monetary value, as many 18th- and 19th-century American folk art painters were able to make a living off their work, including itinerant portrait painters.

Come discover the wide and wonderful world of folk art for yourself at the Leigh Acres Flea every Saturday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. – and find something to take home and treasure.

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