The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987

Book Reviews

Books. A few copies were salvaged, and, with luck, interested persons
may be able to locate one.
Texas State Library DORMAN H. WINFREY
Folk Art in Texas. Edited by Francis Edward Abernethy. (Dallas: South-
ern Methodist University Press, The Texas Folklore Society, 1985.
Pp. vii+ 20o3. Preface, illustrations, photographs, notes, sources,
index. $35-)
If you want to learn how active and rich the scholarship of folk art
has been during the last sixty years, just look at any library card cata-
logue. There you will find museum exhibit catalogues, articles and
books written by art historians, anthropologists, and collectors-all try-
ing to illustrate and define folk art. (See Simon J. Bronner, A CriticalBib-
liography of American Folk Art [Bloomington, Ind.: Folklore Publications
Group, 1978], in which more than 700 books and articles are listed.)
This bibliography grew dramatically during the 1930s when Ameri-
cans, in search of tradition, "discovered" folk art. Until recently, writers
on the subject continued to rely on the enthusiastic declarations of
these 193os art historians and collectors. But some scholars of folk art
have begun to reexamine stereotypes and debate definitions inherited
from over a half-century ago (e.g., that folk art is "simple" and "naive"
and that it is created from "instinct"-not intelligence-by highly indi-
vidualized artists free from the strictures of social expectation).
Focusing on the folk art of their own state, Texas scholars have re-
cently jumped into the fray, with Cecilia Steinfeldt's 1981 Texas Folk Art
and now with Folk Art in Texas. For this informal collection Abernethy
has selected essays on yard art, funerary art, automobile art, and prison
art; some of the authors included in the anthology have written about
basketweaving, hat making, painting, whittling, blacksmithing, tattoo-
ing, and saddlemaking, as well as taking the requisite look at quilting.
In format, the contributions range from transcripts of oral interviews
("Some People Call This Art," by Joseph F. Lomax) to well-documented
articles ("Gal-Legs and Goosenecks: Folk Art on the Texas Range," by
B. Byron Price) and from biographical articles about individual artists
("Alice Dickerson Montemayor of Laredo," by Sandra Jordan, and
"'Uncle Pete' Drgac, Czech-American Folk Artist," by Clinton Ma-
chann) to dictionaries of iconography ("Guardians, Surviving Folk-
ways," by John N. Igo). The selections, while uneven, should be sam-
pled by those interested in popular culture, folklore, and art history.
Abernethy's volume belongs to the 1930os tradition of folk-art scholar-
ship in its Whitmanesque celebration of things folk-and Texan. Un-
doubtedly aware of the recent debate over folk-art definitions, the edi-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/. Accessed July 10, 2014.