Exploring Folk Art

Exploring Folk Art

Michael Owen Jones
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Exploring Folk Art
    Book Description:

    Jones explores the human impulse to create, the necessity for having aesthetically satisfying experiences, and the craving for tradition. He also considers topics such as making chairs, remodeling houses, using and preserving soda-fountain slang, preparing and eating food, and sculpting lifelike figures out of cement.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-380-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Simon J. Bronner

    In the forest of studies on American material culture and folklife lie a few giant redwoods that consistently provide inspiration for generations of students. Books that offer an appreciation of the “masters” who have planted these redwoods and have had much to do with shaping the scholarly landscape have been lacking in the field of material culture studies, although it boasts its own cast of leading men and women. Several interdisciplinary conferences on material culture studies during the 1980s pointed up the need for collections of essays that would allow students to appreciate and analyze the contributions of the field’s...

  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-10)

    Several years before I began exploring folk art, first as a graduate student in folklore at Indiana University and later as a professor of history and folklore at UCLA, I was an undergraduate student ( 1960–64) at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. During the spring semester of my freshman year I heard about a class being taught by someone named Stith Thompson, who was a visiting professor from Indiana University; the course concerned “folklore.” Although intrigued, I could not take the course because it was an upper division one; in addition, I had begun an art major which...

  5. Part One: Making Things
    • 1 Violations of Standards of Excellence and Preference in Utilitarian Art
      (pp. 13-40)

      In August of 1965, I headed for southeastern Kentucky in search of a chairmaker named Chester Cornett. Warren Roberts, from whom I had had a folk art course my first year of graduate study at Indiana University, had seen a brief article about him in theLouisville Courier-Journal. Aware that one of my undergraduate degrees was in art history, he urged me to find out more about this craftsman and the chairs he made.

      I had no knowledge of and little interest in utilitarian art forms. My previous research had concerned painting, sculpture, and photography as art. But the weeks...

    • 2 A Strange Rocking Chair ... The Need to Express, the Urge to Create
      (pp. 41-56)

      The article below was printed inFolklore & Mythology(1982b), a newsletter published by Patrick K. Ford when he was Director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Comparative Folklore and Mythology. Appearing three times a year, issues carried major articles as well as notes and news items. Although I had not written about Kentucky chairmakers for several years, I agreed to prepare this article because it gave me an opportunity to comment on why I had asked certain questions in research, looked for answers in various realms, and emphasized the individual craftsman in much of my work.

      Moreover, I...

  6. Part Two: Sensory Experiences
    • 3 L. A. Re-dos and Add-ons: Private Space vs. Public Policy
      (pp. 59-80)

      In the mid-1970s after the publication of my book on chairmakers in southeastern Kentucky, I returned to the study of folk medicine (begun in 1968 with field research in northeastern Canada). And I began writing about fieldwork methods, pedagogical techniques, and architectural design. My interest was largely action-oriented and applied. In the previous decade I had read widely in art history, sociology, anthropology, and psychology. I had written many papers and articles about various concepts, theories, and perspectives. But the study of folklore also relates to fields that apply hypotheses and inferences to bring about social action and change. Practitioners...

    • 4 Modern Arts and Arcane Concepts: Expanding Folk Art Study
      (pp. 81-96)

      I was invited to give a paper in March, 1980, at “A Midwestern Conference on Folk Arts and Museums,” which was sponsored by the University Gallery of the University of Minnesota. For several years I had been documenting everyday examples in contemporary American life that illustrated Franz Boas’s statement (1955:9): “All human activities may assume forms that give them esthetic values.” I had taken photos of landscaped yards, ways in which people decorate rooms of their homes, the organization of images in family photo albums, and even arrangements of utensils in kitchen drawers, boxed and canned goods on cabinet shelves,...

    • 5 The Proof Is in the Pudding: The Role of Sensation in Food Choice as Revealed by Sensory Deprivation
      (pp. 97-106)

      “Some habits never change,” remarked a student in a paper for one of my classes on foodways in America: “a hot dog on a stick and lemonade at the beach, hot chocolate at the ice skating rink, and chocolate-covered raisins at the movies.” While free to choose from among many foods and methods of preparation and situations in which to eat, we tend to develop patterns of behavior. Moreover, many people today still produce some of their own foods, whether livestock on a farm or alfalfa sprouts in the cupboard and herbs in a pot on the patio. Some make...

  7. Part Three: Art at Work
    • 6 Creating and Using Argot at the Jayhawk Cafe: Communication, Ambience, and Identity
      (pp. 109-118)

      “Cherry pie, that wasc-pie. Of course, if there was ice cream on it, it would bel-a,” said Paul Sinclair. “And if it had two dips on it, which a lot of boys wanted, it wasmode-mode. If you wanted two dips on there, it would bec-pie mode-mode.”

      For eighteen-and-a-half years Sinclair had owned the Jayhawk Cafe in Lawrence, Kansas. It was located just below the top of Mt. Oread, the site of the University of Kansas.

      “What about a glass of ice?” I asked.

      “Yeah, yeah.Bucket of hail. Andbucket of hail in the airwas...

    • 7 A Feeling for Form, as Illustrated by People at Work
      (pp. 119-132)

      Long before I completed my dissertation on one kind of work, chairmaking in southeastern Kentucky, I conducted field research in the Maritimes under contract with the Museum of Man in Canada on another occupation, that of faithhealing. Four years after I began the study (and two years after I completed my dissertation), I published a monograph entitledWhy Faithhealing?(1972c).

      One of the issues was why patients availed themselves of the services of traditional therapists. To answer the question, I asked many former patients as well as recorded stories told me by healers about who had come to them and...

    • 8 Aesthetics at Work: Art and Ambience in an Organization
      (pp. 133-158)

      A two-day conference on organizational symbolism was held at the University of Illinois in May of 1979. Eleven papers were given on humor in a machine shop, symbolic behavior in organizations, belief systems, meaning creation, and so forth. A few months later, a national conference on workers’ culture was held. Sponsored by The University of Michigan and Wayne State University, this conference concerned a review and evaluation of research on workers’ lore, the concepts of class and subculture, stereotypes of workers, and the lore of specific occupational groups. Organization theorists dominated the first conference and folklorists the second. Apparently, participants...

  8. Part Four: Methods and Concepts
    • 9 Aesthetic Attitude, Judgment, and Response: Definitions and Distinctions
      (pp. 161-176)

      In the early 1970s I published a series of articles on aesthetics, a concept essential to folk art and material culture. It is also vital to work life and organizational settings, I realized later.

      Over the years I have given papers and published on various matters regarding methods, concepts, and perspectives in the study of different aspects of folklore. In 1976, for example, I published “The Study of Folk Art Study: Reflections on Images” (1976d). In 1977 I gave a paper called “Ask the Chairmaker” at the meeting of the American Studies Association. And in 1983 I read a paper...

    • 10 The Material Culture of Corporate Life
      (pp. 177-186)

      In March of 1983, the Center for the Study of Comparative Folklore and Mythology and the Behavioral and Organizational Science Group in the Graduate School of Management (GSM) at UCLA jointly sponsored an international conference on organizational folklore, which I directed with David M. Boje and Bruce S. Giuliano (the former a member of the faculty in GSM and the latter the president of Ponte Trading Company).

      Called Symbols, Myths & Folklore: Expanding the Analysis of Organizations, the conference brought together 139 folklorists, organization theorists, and practitioners. Twenty-three presentations and six workshops filled the three-day event. Papers concerned ceremonials and rituals...

    • 11 Preaching What We Practice: Pedagogical Techniques Regarding the Analysis of Objects in Organizations
      (pp. 187-196)

      “If one direction is inward to the isolated self, then another direction is outward to the communal other. More than entailing a concern for groups—ethnic, occupational, or regional—the communal other is organizational. It exists in different organizations of social structure,” writes Simon J. Bronner (1986: 125). “The broader implication oforganizationwas its vision of society,” continues Bronner, “much as performance and function provided their own .... In a modern society that was noted for its increasing individualism, institutional settings define more identities: the office, the military, the city, the media, the school, the profession, the government. More...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 197-204)

    Some of my publications and papers grew out of my teaching experience at UCLA. During the year and a half that I worked on my dissertation after leaving Indiana University, for example, I presented in folk art classes many of the ideas I was developing.People Studying People: The Human Element in Fieldworkresulted from Georges’s and my having taught research methods, realizing as we did so that there was much more to the fieldwork experience than had been treated in the publications we asked students to read. But it was administrative responsibilities and service that intensified my interest in...

  10. References
    (pp. 205-214)
  11. Index
    (pp. 215-219)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 220-220)