The Temptation: Edgar Tolson and the Genesis of Twentieth-Century Folk Art

Paperback
Why, beginning in the late 1960s, did expressive objects made by poor people come to be regarded as twentieth-century folk art, increasingly sought after by the middle class and the wealthy? Julia Ardery explores that question through the life story of Kentucky woodcarver Edgar Tolson (1904-1984) and the evolving public reception of his poplar dolls. The Temptation presents a vivid chronicle of folk art's ascendancy in the late twentieth century, enlivened by the voices and opinions of diverse participants in the folk art scene. Drawing on in-depth interviews with collectors and dealers, museum and auction house officials, and Tolson's own family members and friends, the book traces a twenty-year tug-of-war over the definition, sale, and interpretation of folk art. Unlike earlier studies, Ardery's work also links the popularity of folk art to larger historical forces: the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty in Appalachia, government and corporate arts sponsorship, developments in arts education, and an expanded art market. Well illustrated and impeccably documented, The Temptation offers an engaging account of how a generation both reflected and reinforced its ideals through its fascination with crayon drawings, quilts, and wooden dolls. |The tug-of-war over the definition, sale, and interpretation of 20th-century American folk art is revealed through the life story of Kentucky woodcarver Edgar Tolson (1904-1984) and interviews with key players in the folk art scene.