“Art teaches us to see into things. Folk art and kitsch allow us to see outward from within things.”
Being Southern is synonymous with loving pork barbecue and folk art. It must be in the genetic code, infused by the red clay soil and pine needles that are the backdrop of life here. Alabama is especially rich in folk artists—from the Gees Bend quilters to Tin Man, from Zkano Socks and Alabama Chanin, to Conecuh Sausage and Orbix Hot Glass. Folk artists like to make things that are “useful.” I think it arises out of the poverty that has always plagued the South. It taught us to open our eyes to the beauty of ordinary things, to pick up a piece of discarded junk and think “how can I turn that into art.” Most folk artists work with what they find, or what they have on hand. They weave baskets out of pine needles, carve tables and benches from cross sections of fallen trees, and make quilts from worn out work clothes. I follow that same tradition.
I like the perspective of Walter Benjamin on art—that fine art teaches us to see into things—mood, emotion, perspective, color, style. It requires us to imagine what is going on here. I find that especially true of unstructured modern art. Folk art, on the other hand, teaches us to look outward from within things—it has a “this is how it is” feel to it. People relate to it because it's plain and everyday, cozy and approachable. It looks and feels familiar, like home—because it is.
I wonder whether you are an artist—most people are, though many don't know it. If you are, then you know that personal creativity is often what keeps us tethered to the earth. Our art, whether poem or painting, crocheted hat or blackberry cobbler, is a product of our inner reality. Making it keeps us connected, body to soul. I hope you have ways of getting to, and expressing, this deep reality within yourself. Even in the midst of chaos, it can keep you calm and grounded.
In the Spirit,