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Gallery Ramblings


The Wider World of Folk Art  (September 5, 2012)

Living in Nova Scotia we tend to regard folk art as defined by the works of our local artists past and present. In reality, though, folk art can be almost anything useful or attractive that is made by hand by a nonprofessional.  Descriptive terms used to categorize such works of art are primitive, whimsical, tramp, and outsider. Here are a few examples of these folk art types.

Tramp folk art was a popular form of folk art that flourished in the last century. It involved using wood from cigar boxes and old crates to create picture frames, boxes, and furniture. Some tramp art was made by wandering souls (tramps) who bartered it for food and shelter. But there was also much produced by dedicated craftspeople. Most tramp art is unsigned and undated.


Ornate Box

Mirror Frame

Whimsical folk art – carvings, paintings, and constructs produced for no particular purpose but of unique and unusual designs

Mobile Clock

Mother & Child

Mass Transit

Primitive folk art - usually functional pieces made to serve a particular need. Often little attention is paid to detail or finish.

Rope Strung Bed - very
uncomfortable for two

Sturdy Kitchen Work Table

Kitchen Utensils - well made
tenderizer, masher, spurtle
and ladle

Outsider art was originally a designation for art created by people who by circumstance were socially marginal figures (in prison, insane, or children). Valmont LeBouthillier, a Canadian, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 1972. Amid some controversy he was released in 1991 but soon thereafter stabbed a women and was sent back to prison. Aloïse Corbaz was a Swiss who was sent to an insane asylum in 1918. Her work was included in Jean Dubuffet's collection of psychiatric art. Today, in folk art at least, an outsider artist is one who has studied art and is trained but paints in a folk art style.  Kyle Jackson of Halifax calls himself an outsider. His 3D construction involves cutouts and painting in a shadow box. (W Miller)

Valmont LeBouthillier painting

Aloise Corbaz painting

Child's painting

Kyle Jackson