Americans have been wonderfully impelled for varied reasons to render small buildings and structures. From the mid-19th century until about 1950, mostly anonymous persons have with purpose and skill created the buildings of their real or imagined communities.
American Folk Art Buildings: Collection of Steven Burke & Randy Campbell reveals this remarkably unexplored area of American material culture. Privately printed in limited quantity, the 96-page soft cover book shows, in color, over 500 examples from the nation’s only significant collection.
The first delineation of this delighting and defined category of artifacts, the book conveys reasons, makers, materials, and historical referents for the structures and for their place in American life over decades.
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 17 documented early actual buildings of Queens New York. Not dollhouses, birdhouses, or architectural models, the buildings shape another type of impulse and outcome. While some are based on real buildings, with others likely to also spring from an actual but unidentified structure, most seem to have been made for the sheer pleasure of creating even small a place of one’s own.
Individually and in total, the structures show much about American architectural history and styles – as well as about craft, problem-solving, values, and imagination.
They are delighting and revelatory.
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