What Is Folk Art?

Art is meant to portray a story. After all, we are told that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Before moving from Wyoming to Boston, I had never before heard of folk art. However, upon moving I was quickly introduced. I thought that folk art was painted two-dimensional because the artists didn’t know how to paint. Of all the folk artists out there, Charles Wysocki was the one that I studied. Wysocki was talented with realism, but he eventually chose to pursue folk art. I realized I was very similar to Wysocki because my background in art too, was realism. I could paint a photo and if the completed piece didn’t resemble a photo, then to me it wasn’t art. I initially struggled with folk art because I naturally felt I had more ability to paint realism. I finally caught my break after two years of painting folk art, when an individual commissioned me to paint 8 pieces for them. It wasn’t until then that I realized that folk art isn’t merely two-dimensional art for those who don’t know how to paint- it is art telling a story.

I found this ability deep within me to bring people’s stories to life in my art. After 20 years of being a folk artist, I have hundreds of stories in my paintings. These stories include major events in history, the experiences from places and the many people that I meet along the way, and my personal experiences from growing up in Idaho and Wyoming.

One of these stories that is told over and over in my work is the story of the chicken in the mailbox. As a young boy with ten brothers during the long summer months, we had nothing but time to kill. One afternoon we had the bright idea to store our chicken in our mailbox. This has since stuck and is forever engrained into my paintings.

Coming from a big family of farmers with a religious background, I have a lot of passion in my art. These things motivate me to tell my stories in my artwork, and also drive me to discover new stories that I can tell to others through my work. By taking my experiences and combining them with the people I meet, the symbols and other details from the place I am, I can portray what folk art is: a story, a relationship between people and their environment.