Archive for January 18th, 2011

I came across this on  Candler Arts , website that features an eclectic collection of American folk art available for purchase.  I wrote a couple weeks ago about one of their paintings, a nativity scene from Jimmy Lee Sudduth painted with mud and housepaint.  When I saw this piece I gave a chuckle and thought about the reactions it would bring hanging in a shop or gallery. 

It is probably an advertising piece for a monument maker, probably in the first half of the 20th century, probably in a rural region.  Advertising pieces through the last century or so have provided us with some great folk art.  Think of the large cigar store figures.  Paul D’Ambrosio, who writes the vastly informative blog, American Folk Art @ Cooperstown, has written a number of times about the handmade signs and figures that once graced the counters of small shops and stores in earlier America.  Many are a bit rough, like this sign, but all are simply trying to communicate with their customers and did so with a sort of grace that we can still see in them today. 

One of my favorites from Paul’s blog is a piece from the Fenimore Art Museum collection believed to be from a freed slave named Job from around 1825.  It is an African-American cigar store figure and is a sensitive depiction of such a figure for the time. A female figure holding out a bundle of cigars, it is not a harsh caricature one often would see at that time.  But is still an eye-catching figure which was the purpose of these pieces, to attract customers into the shops. 

 I would definitely stop and take a serious look today if I saw a carving like this outside a shop.  And maybe I would even ask about their layaway plan.

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