Friday, February 11, 2011

Ethnic Art or Silk Paintings in the Bedroom?

You cannot hang ethnic art just anywhere. You need the right environment. But what is it at all, ethnic art and what differentiates it from folk art?

"Folk art" encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic.

As a phenomenon that can chronicle a move towards civilization yet rapidly diminish with modernity, industrialization, or outside influence, the nature of folk art is specific to its particular culture. The varied geographical and temporal prevalence and diversity of folk art make it difficult to describe as a whole, though some patterns have been demonstrated. (after Wikipedia).

The word "ethnic" is related to or characteristic of a sizable group of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage. Members of an ethnic group are conscious of belonging to an ethnic group; moreover ethnic identity is further marked by the recognition from others of a group's distinctiveness. (after Wikipedia).

One definition I found for ethnic art said: “the material art of indigenous people whose art employs traditional methods, aesthetics, and purposes which are functional, ritual, or sacred in nature” (from Diana Lynn Art Tours)

Another definition of "ethnic art" at the Lineart 2008 show led to a much more strict selection process. All the artefacts had to be unique and their provenance known. They were to be utility or ritual objects that transcended their original function because of their universal artistic design and/or character – hence their status as works of art. All the objects should be traced back to a specific period and culture and had considerable artistic merit. If the objects had been restored to any great extent, the vendor must have mentioned this. Every object must have had been used in its religious or cultural tradition in the country of origin and must have been of a significant age.

Now this IS a very strict definition which might not apply to all the objects generally defined as ethinc art or rather folk art.
I see the difference there that "folk art" is a terminus more widely used and not imperatively applied to a certain group of people while "ethnic art" is. "Ethnic art" can be "fine art" whereas "folk art" normally is not. But the borders are blurred.

In our original room example here a sculpture was mounted on the wall that certainly can be defined as ethnic art. But to be honest I found this probably original art piece quite interesting but not applicable for a bedroom. This figure on the wall would cause me personally nightmares - imagine it in a dark room - isn't it reminiscent of  a Voodoo magic sculpture? It would certainly not foster a good and calm night's sleep. Even if the meaning of this figure were a good one, such as a guardian angel - it's form is creepy in our western image world.

(original image source

The four posts of the bed are reminiscent of intricate African wood carvings and certainly make a wonderful statement in this high ceiling bedroom. Therefore I would rather go for some different art works such as these silk paintings which depict ancient cave paintings from the Sahara. These would not alienate an innocent sleeper...

"Tassili II", "Tassili I"
(from the Magic Symbols series)
40" x 13" each, silk
©Petra Voegtle


Anonymous said...

dear Petra, This is a most interesting psting. I agree completely that the demarcation lines of ethnic and folk art are blurred indeed, but for my own part, I should rather go along with the idea that folk art is not fine art, being much more utilitarian and, possibly, naive.

I think that your silk paintings are a far better alternative for this bedroom but, sadly, I must confess that the bed itself is the stuff of nightmares for me!!!

Unknown said...

Dear Edith, how funny!!! I must admit that I am not a big fan of poster beds myself but strangely I like this one. Maybe because of the carving... I simply love all kinds of wood carvings

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