Union County museum opens ‘Folk Art and Friendly Folk’

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – Self-taught art is as much a part of the American mind-set as carving farms out of wilderness or inviting a distant monarch to vacate his troops from our soil.
That legacy will be represented when “Folk Art and Friendly Folk” is featured at the Union County Heritage Museum. The exhibit opens Sunday, with an open house from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and runs regular hours through March 20.
Museum Director Jill Smith describes the works of the eight participating artists as “primitive, traditional, untrained, Americana, whimsical, naïve, eccentric, outsider and visionary. … Each artist is unique in their style, creativity and materials.”
John Davis of Water Valley, whose works include both furniture and musical instruments, said, “I’m kind of fascinated with starting with a piece of wood and seeing what can be made of it. A lot of my work … is about proving what I could do. That’s always fun.”
Clyde McDowell of New Harmony makes every work different from the next.
“I usually use whatever I’ve got,” said the retired engineer, noting that a barn demolition gave rise to totem poles and birdhouses.
“To me, there’s a lot of independence in this. You get to do your own thing,” he said. “I have art that I’ve put out on the roadside, and some people will stop and tell me they brought their family out just to see it.”
Jeanette Stone from Potts Camp weaves, dyes and felts decorative fabric creations. A veteran re-enactor at the museum’s annual Heritage Pioneer Days, she also uses gourds to create lamps, musical instruments and characters.
Like many folk artists, Brad Smith of Jug Fork uses whatever surrounds him to craft his creations. Obsolete farm implements, tools and other recycling-bound metal instead become whimsical faces from his imaginative mind.
Dee Thompson of Benton County paints rural scenes on canvas, bringing memories to life. Among her specialties is creating her own Christmas-card scenes.
Doyle Caviness of Union County is both a fisherman and an artist. His fly-tying – mimicking nature to try to outsmart a bass, bream or trout – is one way he combines the two, and watercolor painting is another.
Woodcarver Ship Chandler of New Albany sees possibilities in seemingly ordinary finds – an oddly shaped vine, a piece of antler or bone – to integrate into his walking canes.
Whimsy is abundant in “Folk Art and Friendly Folk” as evidenced by Ralph Barnes’ Tyrannosaurus Rex, made of metal, including bent rake tines for teeth and wrenches for claws.
The T-Rex is characteristic of much of Barnes’ work, Smith said – “funny, quirky and sometimes larger than life.”
For more information on the exhibit or other museum activities, call (662) 538-0014.
errol.castens@journalinc.com