Wednesday, April 13, 2011
This is the most memorable work I saw today at the American Folk Art Museum. It's by a well-known self-taught artist named Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery and started drawing in his 80s. I still find it awkward to have work by "marginals" in a museum that institutionalizes "the marginal" (marginal to me).
As museum goers and art lovers, we tend to only learn about an artist's background if the artist is black, a woman or poor beyond can't-pay-back-my-loans. Sure, personal history is interesting and certainly does add dimension to seeing work. But we tend to chose what personal history matters. For some reason, we don't think the fact that Julian Schnabel has a new model girlfriend "matters." Nor does it "matter" that Molly Stevens found the deductions necessary to reduce her taxes to $4400, down from $10,400.