Review of'Folk Arts of Washington State: A Survey of Contemporary Folk Arts and Artists in the State of Washington'(Lund, LA Harris

Tags: Jens Lund, Kenneth H. Winn, Richard T. Hughes, Larry M. Logue, American Quest, The American Quest for the Primitive Church, Chicago, cloth, Land of Liberty, Martha Taysom Indiana University, University of North Carolina Press, University of Illinois Press, folk art, symbolic significance, Folk Arts, folk artistry, geographical community, community, communities, folk artists, Washington State
Content: 136
Folklore Forum 22:1/2 (1989)
on cemetery design and architecture, others on symbolic placement of markers or the origin and evolution of cemeteries. Other essays focus specifically on gravemarker aesthetics, that is, decorative aspects, symbolic significance, social and cultural meaning of epitaphs, artistic influences on stonecarvers, and the particular materials used in the art of stonecarving. Still other essays deal with worldview in funerary ritual, ethnicity and cultural identity, and economic dimensions of stonecarving. Cemeteries concludes with a very thorough bibliography of sources in cemetery studies. It is organized topically and contains citations that are interdisciplinary in scope and scholarly in nature. Perhaps the only shortcoming of this book is its cost; however, the numerous photographs and illustrations complementing the essays in this book, and the fact that the book is printed on very high quality paper, more than compensate for the price. Folklorists will benefit greatly by the scholarly breadth and cultural diversity of the essays in Cemeteries and Gravemarkers.
Jens Lund, ed. (with Elizabeth Simpson). Folk Arts of Washington State: A Survey of Contemporary Folk Arts and Artists in the State of Washington. Tumwater, WA: Washington State Folklife Council, + 1989. Pp. xx 108, photographs, map, bibliography, appendix, ethnic Resource Guide, index. $14.95 paper. Laura A. Harris Indiana University Folk Arts of Washington State is a representative, although by no means exhaustive survey of the diverse folk arts and artists in Washington State. Research for a traveling exhibition of Washington State Folk Art (funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Folk Arts Division) led to the publication of this book, and a second exhibition, the 1988 Governor's Invitational Art Exhibition: "'For as Long as I Can Remember . . .': The Folk Art of Washington State." For the initial project, three folklorists, Phyllis A. Harrison, Janet C. Gilmore, and Harry Gammerdinger, were given the task of finding "a broad sample of contemporary Washington folk art." They visited, interviewed, and observed a number of folk artists in communities across the state. The articles that came out of their research, together with an extensive introductory survey by Jens Lund (the Washington State Folklorist) provide a sampling of regional folk arts as well as an introduction to the contemporary study of material folklore in general. The examples and discussions in this book place individual artists and their communities in a role of central importance to the generation, meaning, and appreciation of folk art. One of the book's primary aims is to "define folk art as it exists in the context of the modern world." The various folkloric forms are therefore presented not simply as objects or artifacts, but as expressions of individual and community Aesthetic Values and interests. Folk arts play a significant role in the nurturing and identification of a Sense of Community. The
Book Reviews
137
concept of community, whether regional, cultural, social, ethnic, occupational, o r
other, is important to the identity, interaction, and comfort of most if not all of
us. The community is a source for knowledge of a skill, a market for a craft,
and the place where standards (the aesthetic criteria and technology) are set.
Folk artists render a tangible depiction of the shared interests, culture, or
occupational background of the larger group or community. Exactly how folk
arts are able to function in this capacity and acquire meaning beyond their
existence as objects or practices is not always clear. Folk arts speak to a very
personal sense of community, and they convey the idea that notions of
community and certain aesthetic criteria are in fact shared. T o be recognizable
as folk art, material forms most often involve materials, applications, and/or
techniques that are recognized as belonging to a community or locale.
Additionally, there is an assumption that production knowledge and skills have
been shared or passed along informally within the community. The products
and the processes of their creation must somehow capture or recreate shared
community values and aesthetic tastes. Yet aesthetic criteria are not easily
identified, and the way in which the materials, aesthetic style, and design speak
to members of a comn~unitymay be very personal. Elsie Koehler Johnson's
seed-art collage-mural pictured on the book's cover, for instance, appeals to my
own sense of natal comn~unity. Her art reminds me of the much less
sophisticated seed paintings I used to see every year at the Palouse Empire Fair
in Whitman County, but more importantly, the plant materials she uses and the
farm scenes she depicts in her collages capture certain qualities of the
environment "east of the mountains." (The Cascade Mountains divide
Washington State geographically, economically, and some would say politically
into "east" and "west.") It is important for me to recognize this quality in her art
and to feel that it represents a sense of regional or geographical community,
even though my relation to a natal locality and membership in other groups or
communities (such as an academic community, family, and so on) may be very
different from other individuals who also see in Elsie Koehler Johnson's art a
depiction of their communities. Perhaps because of this very personal,
individualized aspect of folk art's appeal, Jens Lund leaves it to the reader to
interpret just how folk art is a function of the shared identity or sense of
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belonging that defines a community.
From Lund's overview of the various definitions of folk art, the book
guides readers through a number of pertinent issues and approaches to folk
artistry. The concept of community and its role in the definition and
interpretation of folk art is examined in "Isn't That Something Everybody
Knows?" by Phyllis A. Harrison. Harrison also points out the significance of
informal learning to a definition of folk artistry and traditional expression. Janet
C. Gilmore highlights the importance of materials and the contexts of production
to the appreciation of regional and occupational folk arts in her article, "Making
Something Out of 'Nothing'." The final article, "Honoring Work: Occupational
Folk Art in Washington," by Harry Gammerdinger, introduces a variety of
communities, artists, and their work that illustrate, perhaps most clearly, the way
in which a folk art reflects the values and shared synlbols of identity in a
particular community.
138
Folldore Forum 22:1/2 (1989)
Each discussion is illustrated with examples of folk artists and their work, from miniature wildlife carvings to Hmong "story cloths," from Native American and German basketry to muffler art, from lace-work to logger yard-art, and from chainsaw sculpture to violin-making. The only "intangible" folk art included in this book is logger poetry. Other temporal forms such as storytelling, dance, and music are not included because the authors felt they could not be adequately represented here. Because this book addresses the larger issues of definition and interpretation of folk arts, it is more valuable than a catalog of folk arts could hope to be; but as a result, its examples and the portraits of folk artists are somewhat limited. The examples of Native American arts are relatively few because there exist a number of texts already available on the subject (these are included in a bibliography). Other communities such as the African-American, Hawaiian-American, Japanese-American, Mexican-American and Chicano communities are mentioned only briefly, and a number of groups (among them the Dutch-Americans of Whatcom County, Swedish-Americans of Tacoma, and the State's Irish-Americans) are overlooked entirely. I hope we can look forward to future collections of Washington State folk arts that follow the precedents set by this work and that include examples even more representative of Washington State's ethnic, regional, and occupational diversity. This book challenges its readers to reevaluate their own assumptions about what is or is not folk art, and how folk art functions in a commullity and in an artist's social and cultural environment. It has a lot to offer Washingtonians, budding folklorists, and others interested in those arts which are not always known outside local comn~unities.
Richard T. Hughes, ed. The American Quest for the Primitive Church. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988. Pp. + vii 245, notes on contributors, index. $32.50 cloth; $12.50 paper. Kenneth H. Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty: Mormons in America, 1830-1846. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989, x + 284, notes, bibliography, index. $32.50 cloth. Larry M. Logue, A Sermon in the Desert: Relief and Behavior in Early St. George, Utah. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988, 165 pages, notes, bibliography, index. $19.95 cloth. Martha Taysom Indiana University The American Quest for the Primitive CIZII)TIisZ a collection of eighteen essays by outstanding historians who consider restorationism or the quest for "first times" as a common theme in American religious history. The book

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