While perusing the Chicago Reader two weekends ago I noticed a small blurb for Collect-O-Rama, what was described as a “garage sale for collectors of outsider and folk art”. Since it was sponsored by the renowned Intuit Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art and the vendors were collectors rather than professional dealers, I figured it would be an unusual market. Fortunately the venue where it was held, the Pulaski Park Field House, was within walking distance of my apartment. By the time I arrived the booths were packed with shoppers so it was a bit tricky getting photographs. There were about 20 booths in one indoor space and merchandise ranged from “typical” folk art like wood carvings to more manufactured, kitsch items like paint by numbers pictures.
Prior to attending Collect-O-Rama I had a certain definition of folk art in mind but apparently the term encompasses a wide range of materials, styles and geographic locations. There were forged iron bracelets from Africa, miniature ships crafted in light bulbs from Maine and rag dolls from the Caribbean. Some of the pieces were vintage or antique while half of the booths contained contemporary items.
I’m both a self taught and institutionally trained artist so the show brought up several questions about the definition of folk art and what separates it from handcrafted items that are made today (ie offerings on etsy) and what’s considered to be “fine art”. Even though I have a master’s degree in photography would an item I knitted or collaged be considered folk art? I’d be interested if any readers out there collect folk art and where they find their pieces– Collect-O-Rama hadn’t been held since 1997 and I don’t know of another show like it in the Chicago area. It’s definitely a new realm of collecting for me and I will be definitely visiting the Intuit soon to try and answer some of my own questions about this genre of art.
Giant stuffed chicken made of what looked to be painted leather.
A pair of glasses made with Kodachrome slides rather than lenses.
Pottery jugs in the shapes of heads, I’m assuming one artist created all of these.
Pin cushions in the shape of shoes, the one on the far left is actually made of mulch created from paper money (ie dollar bills).
An antique metal coal scuttle.
Wood and metal pet (small dog or cat) carrier and paintings.
A wooden peacock-shaped rocker for a toddler.
Perfect decor for a kitchen, I wonder if the wooden hamburger and shake came out of a restaurant.
One booth contained mainly African and African American art and sculpture. The vendor also sells at the Randolph Street Market in the summer.
An unusual bearded mask, I’m wondering if it’s supposed to resemble the devil or a god.
A metal beetle that I presume is an antique boot scraper; it would help you get mud off your shoes.
Modernist miniature furniture made of metal.
Friendly looking animals made of tin cans.
The only jewelry at the show was in this one booth– the bangles are African, made of iron and weighed at least a pound each!
More art made from tin cans, this time giant insects.
I spent 20 minutes trying to decide if I should break my “no buying vintage pillows rule” for these two sweet hand embroidered cat pillows. Ultimately I decided to leave them behind.
The owner of this booth told me the pineapple was Chinese “prison art”. I’ve seen purses and other items made of candy and cigarette wrappers but didn’t know they had the same tradition in China.
The wood chains pictured above and below are known as “whimsies” and are carved from one piece of wood. They would make excellent decor, I could see 3 or 4 hanging together on a wall.
A happy customer with his new purchase, a vintage monkey suit/costume complete with head.
As a photographer, the biggest surprise to me was to see vintage vernacular photographs at the show. Photos are often included in collage forms of folk art but I also discovered that the images themselves are also now considered to be part of the folk art category. The photo above and the next 4 were taken in Ron of Big Happy Funhouse’s booth. He’s a retired photography dealer, blogger and now a curator– he owns hundreds of negatives and prints by Vivian Maier, a Chicago-area street photographer in the 1950s-1970s. He’ll be showing some of Maier’s original prints next month at the Corbett vs Dempsey art gallery.
Photographs of fireworks that resembled Modern Art in their abstraction.
Piles of sketchbooks containing colorful drawings.
One of the booths contained folk art pieces that appeared to be 100 years old or older and exclusively made in America.
A creepy yet intriguing cane with a handle in the shape of a parrot’s head.
Rows of handcrafted wooden ships.
Ships built in a light bulb, definitely taking the ship in a bottle to a new level.
Of course one of my favorite booths contained crafts made by women in the 1940s-1970s including the knitted doll’s clothing above and below.
My favorite item in the booth was a Pop Art style knitted banana that reminded me of Andy Warhol’s iconic banana. I really wanted to buy it but the woman didn’t want to separate it from a grouping of knitted fruit. Oh well.
More knitted versions of iconic items, including the pull apart popsicles that remind me of childhood summers.
Somehow I walked away with only three purchases at the show, the first a carved and painted duck dish (?) that looks similar to pieces that I know to be of Ukrainian origin. I’m guessing this duck is likely Russian or Eastern European.
Not technically folk art, but I had to get this necklace made with pre-1920s Monte Carlo casino game tokens.
Lastly two black and white vernacular photos taken at the Dinosaur Park in Cabozon, California. When I lived in Los Angeles, we used to always pass the dinosaur park on the way to camping trips in Joshua Tree.