Sunday, October 12, 2014

Well, How Else Would You Do It?

Used by permission of Jonathan Fisher Memorial

"The ideas that the artist puts into action to create an object can be classified by the relationships they bear to the cultural norm that receives overt and massive support from the agents for economic, religious, and political stability. With regard to this public culture, some of the ideas in the artist's mind may be considered conservative, some normative, some progressive-or, in the terms of the folklorist, folk, popular, and elite (or academic). If the idea was, when expressed, conservative, the resultant object-the song of story or sculpture-can be called folk. Saying that a thing is "folk", then, implies that the idea of which it was an expression was old within the culture of its producer and that it differed from comparable, contemporaneous ideas explicitly advocated as the popular culture of the dominant society...

It means also and most significantly that the folk object, unlike the popular and elite object, is not part of rapidly changing fashions; the establishment of the folk nature of an idea is the demonstration of its persistence through time. The artist may or may not  be aware that his idea is folk; his conservatism might be self-consciously archaic and nativistic, or it might be the only way he knows: the folk artist's usual answer to an inquiry about the logic of his métier  is "Well, how else would you do it?"

-Henry Glassie, from "Folk Art" in Folklore and Folklife: An Introduction


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