Folk art, like every other form of folklore, is very powerful. It reflects the beliefs and customs of a particular society. Along the way folk art in particular can help express feelings or emotions that can’t be written or otherwise put into words. The mixture of visual textures, colors and shapes can impact people to feel something they might not have been feeling. This is especially true during times of hardship.
Folk art, unlike ‘fine art’ can be created by anyone – although there is a growing number of folk artists who have devoted themselves to perfecting their folk craft. Folk art can combine any number of everyday items. Think painted water cans, quilts, or weather vanes, for example. This folk way of depicting something has the ability to bring people together, help them heal, and even distract them from a variety of hardships, including natural disasters that leave countries, communities, families and individuals with nothing.
At the Museum of International Folk Art in New Mexico, the current The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Natural Disaster exhibit highlights the way folk artists have helped their communities recover from these natural disasters: the Haitian Earthquake; Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast; floods in Pakistan; and the volcanic eruption of Mt. Merapi in Indonesia.
Carnival masks, scrolls, paintings, or vodou flags retell the trauma and the drama and, in this way, help to make the pain of these events more manageable.
Art in general can help the world understand unfortunate circumstances. Folk art that reflects the traditions (and materials) of a specific region help to explain who is affected by the disasters and how. Folk art can also encourage victims to face the difficult realities of the disaster and this can help them move through a range of feelings and emotions.
Folk artists show their own emotions about the natural disasters in ways that people may not have understood. They become spokespersons and help illustrate the stories behind select events.
The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Natural Disaster close on April 29th.