I am on the road for the first week of July, so I'm revamping a blog post I wrote on my personal blog about my encounter with the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe during a cross-country trip I took with my lovely first wife a few years ago. Enjoy!
The first idea we looked at was that humans are artists and it’s part of who we are. The second idea I came away with was that given sufficient materials and time, humans prefer the ornate, the baroque, the over-the-top.
This is a thing used in religious processions:
See what I mean? But wait, there’s more:
That’s right, all those wires are covered with beads. Thousands and thousands of beads. The exhibit was full of such items, and the idea that most of them are “objects of devotion” seems an insufficient explanation to our modern minds for the utter time-consuming work it took to create them.
This is from Poland:
It’s about four feet tall, made of wood, and covered with foil. All the little people (sold separately) are handcarved. Notice the floral arrangements to either side. Yes, all the flowers are handmade.
This tendency to the exuberant could be seen throughout the exhibit. If the objects were simple, there would be a lot of them. But often the objects were not simple.
Idea #2: Not only do humans Make the Thing That Is Not, they will devote a great deal of time and material the making of it.
This is a critical idea. Those who denigrate the arts as an unnecessary "frill" would be well advised to think long and hard about why humans—throughout our history—would have wasted all that time, energy, and material on something that was not actually critical to our survival.
Go look at this, then tell me that we do not need art.