Sunday, August 21


Folk Art vs. Fine Art


Q:Whatís the difference between folk art and fine art.


A:Fine art is taught in an academy, formally.Thereís a canon, and a critical vocabulary to discuss it in.One is trained, by people who are specialists, in the field.One becomes certified.One has a credential.His bona fides are vouched for.

††††† A folk artist might be self-taught, or learn from other folk artists.Thereís a tradition, but itís not codified.Some people know more than others but there are no experts, exactly.Your work is authentic or it isnít.Authenticity is prized, and you often may be so authentic thereís nobody like you.Youíre yourself.One folk artist calls himself Sui Generis.


Q:You called an artist Sui Generic.


A:Yes.A play on Sui Generis.Supreme Generic wears a tinfoil helmet to deflect the cosmic rays.Heís out of Asheville, North Carolina.


Q:All the arts have become professionalized in America.Not just art but literature.Itís a business, and there are requirements for entry.Barriers to entry.


A:Yes.Like barbers or manicurists licensing each other.To stifle competition from would-be barbers or fake manicurists.

††††† If they had a WPA program for writers I wouldnít qualify because I canít prove Iím a writer.


Q:Youíve been doing it for 40 years.


A:Who says so?Anybody can say he is an artist.


Q:Youíve published ten books.


A:By myself, or through small presses.

††††† Thatís vanity publishing.

††††† It has the stigma of self-publication on it.

††††† Home-made.

††††† Amateurish.


Q:Self-publication is a badge of honor, not a stigma.


A:Thatís what a self-published writer would say.


Q:Well, what kind of a writer do you call yourself?


A:A vernacular writer.






††††† Vernacular translates of native-born slaves.

††††† A slave is an ambassador in bonds, who speaks boldly, as one ought to speak.

††††† To his master.


Q:Who do you speak boldly to?


A:The War Heads in book publishing, the media of mass communication, where books are reviewed, national and state arts agencies and cultural foundations that support literature, and literary critics and writing instructors in university English and Creative Writing departments.


Q:What is literature, to you?


A:Itís what people read.

††††† Itís what people write.

††††† Itís what I write.Even if I only have a handful of steadfast readers, the Buzzard Cult.

††††† My cult.

††††† Many good writers have a cult, to start.

††††† They are immobilized by the smallness of their cult.


Q:For example.


A:For example thereís a Kurt Schwitters show in California and I canít afford to go.

††††† I guess I can buy the exhibition catalog from the museum bookstore.


Q:I wish you could go.

††††† Iíd be curious to hear your impressions.


A:Thank you.

††††† I am immobilized in Point and Shoot.




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