folk art, the art works of a culturally homogeneous people produced by artists without formal training. The forms of such works are generally developed into a tradition that is either cut off from or tenuously connected to the contemporary cultural mainstream. Folk art often involves craft processes, e.g., in America, quilting and sculpture of ships' figureheads, cigar-store figures, and carousel animals. Paintings in the tradition of primitivism also reflect the folk idiom. Folk art is generally nationalistic in character and expresses the values and aspirations of a culturally united group. Much folk art possesses a rough-hewn quality frequently admired and imitated by sophisticated artists. In works of the American regionalist school of the 20th cent., folk and mainstream traditions merged to form a hybrid modern expression. Of several museums devoted to the collection and exhibition of folk art, the best known is probably the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.
See H. Cahill, American Folk Art (1932, repr. 1970); A. Earnest, Folk Art in America (1984); H. T. Bossert, Folk Art of Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas (1990).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.