For Folk's Sake: Art and Economy in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia

For Folk's Sake: Art and Economy in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia

by Erin Morton


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Folk art emerged in twentieth-century Nova Scotia not as an accident of history, but in tandem with cultural policy developments that shaped art institutions across the province between 1967 and 1997. For Folk’s Sake charts how woodcarvings and paintings by well-known and obscure self-taught makers - and their connection to handwork, local history, and place - fed the public’s nostalgia for a simpler past. The folk artists examined here range from the well-known self-taught painter Maud Lewis to the relatively anonymous woodcarvers Charles Atkinson, Ralph Boutilier, Collins Eisenhauer, and Clarence Mooers. These artists are connected by the ways in which their work fascinated those active in the contemporary Canadian art world at a time when modernism – and the art market that once sustained it – had reached a crisis. As folk art entered the public collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the private collections of professors at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, it evolved under the direction of collectors and curators who sought it out according to a particular modernist aesthetic language. Morton engages national and transnational developments that helped to shape ideas about folk art to show how a conceptual category took material form. Generously illustrated, For Folk’s Sake interrogates the emotive pull of folk art and reconstructs the relationships that emerged between relatively impoverished self-taught artists, a new brand of middle-class collector, and academically trained professors and curators in Nova Scotia’s most important art institutions.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780773548114
Publisher: McGill-Queens University Press
Publication date: 10/24/2016
Series: McGill-Queen's/Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation Studies in Art History , #20
Pages: 424
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Erin Morton is associate professor of visual culture in the Department of History at the University of New Brunswick.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Preface xv


1 The Historical Presentism of Folk Art 3

2 A Genealogy of Folk Art in Canada: Nostalgia and the Ancestry of Modern Art 17

Part 1 Art Insulations and the Institutionalization of Folk Art

3 "Behind Those Weathered Doors": Chris Huntington, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and the Institutionalization of the Folkloric Future 39

4 Teaching the Self-Taught: Collins Eisenhauer, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and the Art-World Economies of Folk Art 86

5 "Tales of These Halcyon Days": The Centralized Decentralization of Regional Culture Making 133

Part 2 Maud Lewis and the Social Aesthetics of the Everyday

6 Ordinary Affects: Public History, Maud Lewis, and the Cultural Object of Optimism, in Rural Nova Scotia 175

7 Commemorative Expectations: The Community-Corporate Model of the Maud Lewis Painted House Preservation 218

8 Art Works: The Maud Lewis Authority, Tourism, and Neoliberal Copyright 260


9 The After Images and After Affects of Folk Art in the Present 295

Illustrations 305

Notes 313

Bibliography 373

Index 398

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