Sources of Inspiration

Folk art exhibits and catalogs have often been organized like any other art exhibit, with an emphasis on the artworks and little or nothing about how they came to be. They may be grouped by media-–paintings and sculpture–-or by materials–-paper, wood, metal, fabric–-or by time periods-–in art history or in the life of an artist.

As folklorists at TAUNY, we see things differently. As beautiful as each object is, as important as knowledge of its design and execution is, we are also very interested in the person who makes it and the process he or she uses to create it. We believe that folk art is the product of a person who shares the values and tastes of a whole community of people like him, based on their common ethnicity or national background, religious affiliation, region or place, occupation, or family. Therefore, we also look beyond the object to find the story of its making.


KINDRED PURSUITS is organized according to seven common sources of inspiration to create for folk artists. They range from pieces that require a rather strict adherence to maintaining one’s group’s traditions–like Mohawk ceremonial regalia and Old Order Amish quilts–-to traditional artforms that actually encourage some innovations--like rustic furniture and sculpture with recycled found objects.


Our selections and their placement in categories are somewhat subjective. One of Helen Condon’s rugs or Don Morley’s decoys might fit just as well in Function or Ingenuity as it does in Virtuosity; other examples of such crossover possibilities exist throughout. And our featured artists in each of the categories are selected because of their large body of work that represents each given theme and because we have had the opportunity to document them thoroughly, with interviews, photography, and materials written about them over time.


Roger Perkins Iroquois Cooking Pot


Guideboat Model

Keeping Connected

Stoneware jug with fish

Making it Useful

Prudence Matthews Lighthouse rug

Re-Creating Memories

Blue Heron


Richard Merchant Cow over the Moon

Being Inventive


  St. Regis Church Beaded Basket

Sustaining the Spirit