The Art of Turnip Truckdom

Letter From South Carolina

I'll take my stand. There are a lot of topics around—collapsing savings and loans, collapsing universes, donkey basketball—on which I have skillfully walked the rail or else mumbled "no comment" while hiding my face behind a raised lapel. There is one subject, though, that I'm willing to stand up and be counted on. I like folk art. Correction. It's officially called "outsider art" now, but I like it all the same and so do a lot of other red-blooded Americans. I seem to remember Dwight Eisenhower chuckling the praises of Grandma Moses, a saintly woman whose life and art were relatively typical (or used to be) of the genre. She started painting late in life and was self-taught. She had no sense of perspective, used bright colors, and celebrated a nostalgic or naive or at least pleasant view of her surroundings.

I realize such generalizations are dangerous, but I'm taking my stand so I'll live dangerously. Grandma Moses was a typical folk artist (or used to be? maybe? many say? for her time?). Times change, of course. I still like Ike and assume most other people do too, but folk art is no longer a matter to be left in the hands of benign Sunday painter Presidents. It's big business, and it's social statement, and still some of it's being painted right down the road by elderly grandparents. The medium is the message, and the message is . . . well.

My wife and...

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