Allow me to give you a little back story at this point to help you understand my newfound awakening. I was born in West Virginia. Many members of my family have always created what they'd call "crafts". I don't know if most of my family members have ever given much thought to the importance of art or not, and I would guess that they have not given the overall lack of appreciation and understanding of the arts in that region of the country. Now that seems like a harsh statement to make, but I feel I've probably earned the right to make it based on my experiences with most people from West Virginia. Don't get all up in arms if you happen to be from there and you are a patron of the arts, I am speaking in general and not in specifics here. However it doesn't take away my experiences and how they affected my artistic interests.
I suppose the artistic tastes of rural West Virginians don't really matter here other than to explain why I have never had much of an interest in folk art until recently. I've always looked to the world outside of West Virginia for something better. I've always felt that other regions had their act together. Regions like southern California and the art associated with hot rods and car culture. The hot rod world always appealed to me as a mythical Shangrila that could take me away from some of the harsher realities of my W.V. environment. There's a part of me that justifiably still feels that way too. I see the raw talent present in the people I grew up with, but there also is a lack of the drive (or flamboyance maybe) that is certainly present in Kustom Kulture art. Perhaps the lack of flamboyance is a byproduct of survival. Like maybe scraping by doesn't lend itself to grand designs and large thoughts. Maybe that's the explanation, I don't know. The point is I had never given much of a crap about what people would call "folk art". I'd never seen the power in it like I saw in Kustom Kulture stuff....until recently.
Two of my family members who have shown an appreciation for art, at least the art of their region, are my Grandmother and her brother who I always called Uncle Jim. Uncle Jim has always made awesome wood crafts and really cool stuff. I've always thought he was way talented. My grandmother also was always involved in making crafts up until she was taken from us by alzheimers. That was something that has had a profound effect on me and it's left me contemplating the things she made. There aren't a lot of items. She never made paintings or pieces that went into art shows or galleries. She made quilts and dolls and lots of things like that. The one item that I have in my possession that is most powerful to me is a small quilted blanket she made for me on which she hand painted the characters from the Dukes of Hazzard. I had never given her "art" much thought until she passed. I have come to realize that her artwork had a profound influence on my artwork. I wish she'd made more and shown the world how great she was.
I used to struggle to make things what I'd call "perfect". What I've come to realize is that perfect is what comes naturally. A person's style is what comes out when they're not thinking about too much but just making something. Just being honest. The shaky-ness and even the unsure lines the hand sometimes makes are direct links to what's shakin in a person's brain. Those lines are tracks laid down by the rabbits running through your mind. The quivers and hiccups and missed strokes and patterns and color choices are all the artists personality. The more the artist doesn't question it, the better. The more freedom involved in creating the piece, the more it represents the person creating it.
My latest art is about that. While creating it I am keeping in mind my history and I'm allowing myself to be free(er). It looks how it looks. I'm not cleaning stuff up much. The lines can be shaky. I can get it right the first time, maybe the next, maybe who cares I'll not even try to get it right. I still love the power in the Kustom Kulture art. I'm a lowbrow artist at heart, but I've also found that I'm a FOLK ARTIST by birth. There's plenty of room for both.
This painting is one that I made specifically about my Grandmother: