Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Folk Art Exhibition

A new art exhibition runs for a week in Bristol this autumn exploring the worlds of dolls and death. Called “The Smith and Jones Museum of Folk Art” the event is a joint exhibition by real life couple Gary Smith and Elsie Jones.

The exhibition is actually two separate shows; Elsie’s work is titled “The Dolls Have Eyes” and comprises handmade textile figures and collages which examine the culture of dolls; while Gary’s part of the show is called “The Folk Art Of Cactus County” and explores a secular celebration of the Mexican “Day Of The Dead” festival in painting, textile and sculpture.

“This will be the first time we’ve exhibited work together” say Gary “and although our styles are very different we hope they complement one another.”

“We’re both fascinated by the world of folk art” says Elsie “and we’re excited about showing some of our own interpretations of it in the exhibition.”

The Smith and Jones Museum of Folk Art is on at Room 212 on Gloucester Road in Bristol from Monday 13th till Saturday 18th of September, it is open from 12pm to 6pm daily and it is free to get in.

Gary Smith - The Folk Art of Cactus County

"The Folk Art Of Cactus County" is my interpretation of a secular celebration of "Dia de los Muertos", the Mexican "Day of the Dead" festival.

There’s a warmth and honesty in the self expression of unschooled folk art that I find compelling and inspiring. In particular, shrines dedicated to family members who have died, made by people in their own homes for the Mexican “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) festival, I find touching and poignant. Traditionally these shrines are religious in character, however, as an Atheist, in my images of “Dia de los Muertos” I deliberately avoid the use of religious symbols; it goes against the grain for me to promote any form of supernatural belief.

The religious do not have a monopoly on death. It is open to all cultures and all individuals to honour the dead we loved and to celebrate life. So I’ve re-interpreted the art of the festival for a secular society.

I’ve taken this a step further by imagining a place where a secular celebration of “Dia de los Muertos” could take place and created Cactus County; a New Mexico desert community of scientists, philosophers and artists who live more or less by Epicurean principals, that is eschewing religion and belief in an afterlife, while pursuing happiness through learning and a knowledge of how the world works. My work reflects this utopian ideal, so while my art may be naive and unsophisticated in its style, it has meaning and it is sincere.

In short, a lot of my work is based round a secular celebration of the Day of the Dead, so there are a lot of skulls and cactus in my paintings.

Elsie Jones - The Dolls Have Eyes

‘The Dolls Have Eyes’ is a series of works exploring my fascination with dolls.

As a little girl, I played with dolls, but was not especially fond of them. However, as an adult, they have come to fascinate me. My initial interest came from folk art. The strong designs of Kachina dolls attracted me as graphic and sculptural objects. I also became interested in other primitive dolls and figures, and other folk art dolls, such as Japanese Kokeshi dolls. These dolls and figures reinterpret the human form, often reducing it to the simplest elements – a head and a body. Sometimes these forms are stylised and minimal, sometimes they are detailed and heavily decorated, but we always recognise the human form.

The other side of this fascination is with the mass-produced toy. The sophisticated consumerist ideal of Barbie is the epitome of this. Certainly the pink plastic aspirations being presented to little girls need to be questioned, but at the same time, there is, for me, a kitsch appeal in this mini-world of domestic accessories. I love cheap plastic dolls, especially vintage ones in packaging with bold, bright graphics. Souvenir dolls too, are appealing in their conformity, like the Hong Kong dolls which represent so many different nationalities with just a change of costume. They can be loved as nostalgic reminders of childhood. But they can also be re-examined as poor plastic imitations of life. Imperfect dolls whose smiles have been painted crooked or whose hair is mostly detached, who appear to us as dishevelled characters, sometimes with a creepy life of their own.

I am interested in the combination and fusion of all these different elements, along with other interests and influences, such as textile art and costume, feminine and domestic handicrafts, vintage kitsch and graphics, collections, old toys and comic characters, pattern, decoration, and embellishment.

The resulting works are textile figures, altered dolls, and collages, which play with the culture of dolls and costume.

The Smith & Jones Museum of Folk Art

This blog is to provide information about our exhibition of work, who we are and what we do.