Breaking News Bar
updated: 9/16/2013 3:20 PM

Country Folk Art Festival attacts area's top artists

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Nancee Ariagno creates original punch needle embroidery designs that are a hit in needlework stores across the country.

      Nancee Ariagno creates original punch needle embroidery designs that are a hit in needlework stores across the country.
    courtesy of Nancee Ariagno/Flew the Coop

  • "Come Blow Your Horn," a painting by Will Moses, great-grandson of Grandma Moses, will debut at the Autumn Country Folk Art Festival in St. Charles, which opens Friday, Sept. 20.

      "Come Blow Your Horn," a painting by Will Moses, great-grandson of Grandma Moses, will debut at the Autumn Country Folk Art Festival in St. Charles, which opens Friday, Sept. 20.
    Courtesy of Will Moses

  • Wood sculptor Tony Costanza at work on a new piece.

      Wood sculptor Tony Costanza at work on a new piece.
    Courtesy of Tony Costanza

  • Wood sculptor Tony Costanza says that artists should develop their own style and be careful about taking classes since it can lead to copying styles.

      Wood sculptor Tony Costanza says that artists should develop their own style and be careful about taking classes since it can lead to copying styles.
    Courtesy of Tony Costanza

  • Nancee Ariagno turned to punch needle embroidery after retiring as an interior designer. Her designs are a hit in needlework stores across the country.

      Nancee Ariagno turned to punch needle embroidery after retiring as an interior designer. Her designs are a hit in needlework stores across the country.
    courtesy of Nancee Ariagno/Flew the Coop

  • Chicago design artist Alan Baker creates art from gourds, allowing the animals he sees in them to come alive through whittling.

      Chicago design artist Alan Baker creates art from gourds, allowing the animals he sees in them to come alive through whittling.
    Courtesy of Alan Baker

  • Janet Kreig

      Janet Kreig

  • An early example of Janet Kreig's folk art collection is "Jailhouse Rock," by Tubby Brown. Kreig will lecture on maintaining a folk art collection at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Country Folk Art Festival in St. Charles.

      An early example of Janet Kreig's folk art collection is "Jailhouse Rock," by Tubby Brown. Kreig will lecture on maintaining a folk art collection at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Country Folk Art Festival in St. Charles.
    Courtesy of Janet Kreig

  • Orion Samuelson will be on hand at the Country Folk Art Festival in St. Charles on Friday, Sept. 20.

      Orion Samuelson will be on hand at the Country Folk Art Festival in St. Charles on Friday, Sept. 20.

  • Orion Samuelson will sign copies of his memoir at the Country Folk Art Festival in St. Charles on Friday, Sept. 20.

      Orion Samuelson will sign copies of his memoir at the Country Folk Art Festival in St. Charles on Friday, Sept. 20.

  • Will Moses at work in his Mt. Nebo Gallery in New York.

      Will Moses at work in his Mt. Nebo Gallery in New York.
    Courtesy of Will Moses

 

Folk art. What the heck is it, anyway? Consider these examples:

• Paintings of soft, shadowy foothills dotted with traditional white farmhouses. Weathered red barns tilted haphazardly on broad patches of green and gold hay fields.

-- Artist/author Will Moses

• Turning a chunk of white cedar into a spooky Halloween ghoul, a futuristic Lady Liberty, monks, mermaids, eagles or gaunt renditions of Father Christmas.

-- Wood sculptor Tony Costanza

• Using thread to "paint" complex, colorful scenes on fabric.

-- Punch needle embroidery designer Nancee Ariagno

• Transforming the brittle rind of inedible gourds into whimsical animals, objects and settings that make people chuckle.

-- Artist Alan Baker

See these creations and others created by prominent folk artisans at the 31st annual Autumn Country Folk Art Festival Friday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 22 at Kane County Fairgrounds. The festival is a juried market offering an opportunity to meet some of America's finest creative artisans on hand to show and sell their work. The event is produced by Art of the Heartland, Inc.

Folk art represents a variety of work by unschooled or largely self-taught craftsmen or artisans. Often characterized by a naive or primitive style that lacks traditional proportion and perspective, it may be specific to a culture. Or mimic fine art. Sometimes it is utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Or it can be just about anything its creator wants it to be.

While not represented at The Country Folk Art Festival, another category called "outsider art" comes from beyond society's mainstream -- prisoners, mentally challenged and other untrained folks whose work is not made to sell.

Moses' new work

Basically self-taught from age 4, the great-grandson of legendary Grandma Moses won't pigeonhole art or artists in one category.

"All art borrows and steals from other art resulting in a bleed over from one style or technique to another," says Will Moses, whose latest painting, "Come Blow Your Horn" (depicting Little Boy Blue lying down on the job) will be introduced at the Country Folk Art Festival.

Moses was born and raised in Eagle Bridge, a small upstate New York community near the Vermont border. The artist's Mt. Nebo Gallery is in the 200-year-old farmhouse in which his great-grandmother began her career. It is the setting in which he paints vivid images of villagers engaged in simple, charming, everyday pastimes. And where he writes and illustrates whimsical tales for children.

Advice from a master

Like Moses, prolific wood sculptor Tony Costanza has never had a formal lesson. And doesn't recommend them.

"Don't take one. And don't buy a book. You'll copy the style, then can't break it," he says.

Calling Costanza's work "cute" is a no-no. He hates the word. Along with "craft" and, even "folk art," the very genre in which he works.

"It's a self-taught approximation of perceived reality but the term has been overused to include anything handmade," he says.

Costanza taught Spanish and Italian in a Chicago area high school for 19 years before quitting in 1990 to move to rural Wisconsin where he carves out a living producing thousands of wooden Santas and hundreds of witches and goblins for high-profile collectors including the Archbishop of Warsaw and an unnamed oil baron's heiress.

Needle eye's view

When Nancee Ariagno retired from a long career as an award-winning interior designer she sought the instant gratification of punch needle embroidery. Her designs quickly became a hit at needlework stores nationwide and in leading magazines. Living in "The Cooperage," an 1860s historic house in Cedarburg, Wis., she calls her business Flew the Coop. Her studio is in the farmhouse gallery on the grounds of the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts where she has also taught.

Using one's medium of choice for unique self-expression is Ariagno's view of folk art.

"It's all about how people see the world -- how they interpret it. Some are serious. Some are primitive and lack formal education. Just look at the American West, the pottery of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico and the Hopi Pueblos in Arizona."

Oh, good gourd!

Alan Baker's gig with gourds is his father's doing. Every year at harvest time, the senior Baker (a farmer at heart) brings Alan a bushel of the inedible veggies.

If not reined in, they take over his Chicago studio. Not wanting to offend dad by tossing them, Alan started whittling. Typical painted birdhouses tamed some of the crop. Then Alan soon began sensing the animals and figures hidden within the gourds' organic shapes, blatantly challenging him for release.

"I now see them as part of the whole. I incorporate other materials -- wood, clay and fiber, combine these elements to form whimsical animals, people, things and folky situations."

Folk art is alive

Like all art, folk pieces speak to the collector.

Will Moses considers some pieces more alive than traditional paintings that may be technical masterpieces but lack emotional story, quality or, more importantly, creativity.

"Think how much more interesting the Mona Lisa might be if she had a pimple," he suggests.

These artisans represent the tip of the iceberg at The Country Folk Art Festival.

You will also be able to watch Jim Van Hoven demonstrate his expertise in hand-carved Windsor chairs. And see Bill Morse treat a chair to a new cane seat. Sample Chef Terry Heinrich's heavenly infused oils and vinegars in unexpected ways. Or see Joanna Bolton's papier māche and clay figurines and Mary Henegan's hand-painted signs. The list goes on.

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here