American Folk Art Buildings
architectural imagination and storied places rendered small
Home . . . Place
Americans have been wonderfully impelled for varied reasons to render small buildings and structures. From the mid-19th until the mid-20th century, mostly anonymous persons have with purpose and skill created the buildings of their real or imagined communities.
Range and types are richly varied: houses and churches, stores and factories, carousels and Ferris wheels, bridges and follies, castles and capitols and grand civic places, Grant’s Tomb and Independence Hall, an ice rink and a bowling alley and columned temples, gas stations and stables and barns, and seventeen documented early buildings of Queens New York. Not dollhouses, birdhouses, or architect models, the buildings shape another type of impulse and outcome. All are by every sign American in provenance if not in architecture. A few are based on real buildings; others likely convey an actual but unidentified structure, Triggering impulses include Christmas houses, early trains, projects, local history, and remembering a lost or loved place
Most somehow seem to have been made for the sheer pleasure of creating even small a place of one’s own.
The structures show much about American buildings -- extant, lost, imagined, or interpreted -- as well as about craft, problem solving, values, and imagination. Moreover, they conjoin three significant components of national life: history, architecture, and folk art.
The juncture is as unique in American material culture as revelatory.
The buildings are all within a private collection, gained happily and obsessively since 1985. The community is not routinely dusted off.
Learning & Wondering offers a first description and explication of this distinct form of American material culture, as rich in range and expression as curiously unaddressed and unstudied by the academic curatorial community. Learning, information, and surmises have come from 30 years of gathering,
thinking, and looking.
Here! A Swell Town finds 200 of the structures in an
architecturally engaging townscape.
Who hasn’t wished to rearrange or make their own delighting town?
Types and eras of American buildings are familiar and surprising in equal measure: Capitol & Civic, Churches, Commercial, Nonesuch,
Rides & Circus, Houses, and more. Some specific structures, wonderful in different ways, are detailed. Building History conveys examples of our architectural chronology and eras.
Chip Art reveals the varied richness of a wood rendering technique.
Cats Kong reveals an expanded constituency.
Known & Real conveys any information revealed or gathered about
a small number of the structures.
Descriptions and takes on the buildings -- from varied articles to the film
Rendered Small and the performance work Family Secrets -- are conveyed on the Films & Articles & Song Cycle page.
Contact and responses are welcome.
A few copies of a Book about the collection are available.
Descriptive information and dimensions are not much conveyed, to lessen distracting heft and reflect the visual experience we relish when
looking about and driving through.