Folk fun in Williamsburg

Editorial Staff Magazine

As part of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum’s continuing celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of its founding, a new showcase of some fifty pieces from the museum’s permanent collection has been mounted for a long-term exhibition titled America’s Folk Art.

The Monkey Picture by Henry Church, 1895–1900. Museum purchase; all photographs courtesy the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

The selection includes some familiar favorites, such as The Preacher—a late nineteenth-century, carved butternut and pine sculpture of a minister casting his eyes heavenward, based on a German statue of Martin Luther—and The Monkey Picture, a hilarious and surreal depiction of two simian rascals squabbling over a banana (as a policeman hastens to break up the dispute) painted by the Chagrin Falls, Ohio, blacksmith, Henry Church.

Cheval glass by David Fox, 1904. Museum purchase.

But some lesser-known pieces are the real draw, such as a cheval mirror with a frame as intricately carved as the portal to a medieval cathedral, made in the early twentieth century by a Pennsylvania insomniac named David Fox. Visitors to the museum might later find their sleep disturbed by memories of the weird, off-kilter glass eyes of John S. Eiker’s carved, burl walnut tribute to his dog Joe. More soothing, but also strange, is Malcah Zeldis’s 1994 painting Peaceable Kingdom, which depicts a paradise peopled by, among others, Charlie Chaplin, Abraham Lincoln, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, and Harpo Marx. Louis Armstrong plays trumpet and Ludwig van Beethoven sits in at the piano. Good times.

Peaceable Kingdom by Malcah Zeldis, 1994. Gift of Lawrence E. and Sarah E. Barker.

America’s Folk Art • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Virginia • through December 2019 •