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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

“From Sidewalks to Rooftops”: Outdoor Folk Art

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – A fascinating array of folk art meant for the great outdoors comprised the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum’s exhibition, “Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art,” that recently ended in January of this year.

According to an article posted by Joanne Molina, The Curated Object, International Decorative Arts Exhibitions-Williamsburg. Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum of Folk Art :  “ 'The objects in this exhibition were made to be installed out of doors, so weather has taken a toll on them,' said Barbara Luck, curator of paintings, drawings and sculpture. 'Guests will see objects in a wide variety of conditions because of their use, exposure and maintenance during their useful life.'  The exhibit celebrates the 19th-century predecessors of modern advertising, including painted signboards featuring eye-catching symbols and three-dimensional trade figures—such as cigar store Indians—that have largely disappeared from today’s sidewalks, building facades and countertops. "

As a dealer and collector of American folk art for more than 20 years, I have certainly been exposed to some of the best and have been fortunate to have lived within a short distance of such exceptional collections as that housed at the Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, VA. This outstanding collection has been such a great inspiration to me and the motivation for the opening of our American folk gallery, The 1740 House Antiques Country Gallery which was an annex of my parents business, The 1740 House Antiques located in Charlottesville, Virginia. The 1740 House Country Gallery solely focused on authentic American painted country furniture blended with both period as well as contemporary folk art representing some of America’s top folk artists.

Here at Skipjack, we continue to represent some of the finest contemporary folk artists, but our focus is directed to marine subjects such as nautical theme trade signs, weathervanes, decoys and whirligigs as well as ship’s figureheads and sailor’s art including valentines, ship’s in a bottle, fancy knot work, scrimshaw, decorated sea chests and other art forms derived from our maritime heritage.

Early weathervanes sometimes served as advertising symbols such as this Nantucket sperm whale made by New York folk artist Steve Hazlett, but most simply signaled shifting winds and changing weather patterns. As they became more popular, homeowners and businesses installed them atop their homes, barns and buildings for their decorative appeal, and many structures were considered incomplete without one. The simple rounded and stylized contours of this primitive whale convey an impertinent energy. It was handcrafted from a single 100+year old heart pine board salvaged from a barn located in Bath, NY. Antique copper flashing is applied to the tail and outer edge of whale. Blue and gray buttermilk paint is applied in numerous layers to give the piece a dry and crusty as-found appearance. The piece is hallmarked and mounted on a metal museum mount for display.

The signboard pictured at the beginning of this article was created by Jac & Patricia Johnson and is carved from a solid piece of wood with a thick-shell wall and hand-lettered "Chesapeake Bay Oyster."  A truly wonderful original art piece reminiscent of trade signs that decorated the fronts of buildings in the oyster trade.

The ship’s chandlery sign at right was recreated from a photo by New York folk artist Charles Jerred. The trade sign measuring 16 X 55 inches was produced on very rustic primitive boards that retained the original hardware on the back. This signboard is typical of the types found on old warehouses found along northeastern seaports.

Click here to go to Steve Hazlett's Nantucket Sperm Whale Weathervane.

Click here to go to Charles Jerred's ship's chandlery trade signboard.

Click here to go to Skipjack Nautical Living home page.

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1 comment:

  1. Looking good, Joe. Nice job on your blog. I've added the link on my sidebar.


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