Vestiges & Verse – A Trip to the Folk Art Museum

Vestiges & Verse – Notes from the Newfangled Epic is an exhibition of 21 self taught artists and their “lifelong, intricate, and nonlinear narratives.” It’s a look at journals, drawings, and stories, and how each of those artists has created their own record of self history over time. Being self taught, none of them have been schooled in what the language of art should be (and as a former art student, we often twist that knowledge around anyway), these visual languages are all their own and vivid reflections of their lives and stories.

The pieces that stood out in particular to me were Carlo Keshishian’s diary drawings. I think because his desire – wanting to share while at the same time not – really resonated. While putting one’s thoughts and reflections out into the world, be they in words or images, can often prove positive – the necessary vulnerability is also occasionally terrifying. And so we end up in this odd yet very human place in the middle of exposing and protecting ourselves, especially when creating things for the self that we know will eventually be seen by others. Why do they care? Do I want them to care? Can I obscure things while also making them readily available and also why do I desire both? It just seems fitting that if truly knowing someone takes work, this also comes through in the things that they make.

In this same vein, many if not all of the works on display are intimate yet difficult to deeply understand. I can admit I stood around a little confused and searching for information on spare museum labels before someone kindly handed me the accompanying guide. Lives are complicated and memories are murky – always tainted by personal interpretation. The passing of time only complicating that more so. But through record it’s possible to get a glimpse of ourselves and others as we thought ourselves to be in a moment. We are able to see the progression of self alongside the movement of time and even when the details aren’t apparent, the larger picture is still telling and often a beautiful work all its own.

Others of note who stuck out to me:

  • William A Hall
  • Adolf Wolfli
  • Agatha Wojciechowsky (even more obscure than Keshishian…)