An Occasional Post on Art that Thrills Me
Boredom is also the mother of invention.
Back-in-the-day, we entertained ourselves in the evening—reading, conversing, playing, singing, writing, carving, sketching, knitting, learning, planning, studying, listening to and making music.
Back-in-the-day, there was no screen with words and images created by others to seduce us into simply watching others conversing, playing, doing….
Back-in-the-day, our unspoken mottos were this: Out with idleness; in with invention. Out with waste; in with re-purposing.
So that’s what Tramp Art is—whittling from discardable wood, like crates and cigar boxes—making beauty and having fun with notches and layers. Or it’s inventing charm from bits and pieces found around the house.
Tramp Art is not about hobos and vagabonds and bums. It’s primarily the stay-at-home men’s equivalent to women’s needlepoint, knitting, mending, lace-making. It’s delightful—sometimes practical, often decorative: gifts for the missus, the mothers, the fiancées. It’s picture frames, clocks, jewelry boxes, reliquaries, and the like.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a flurry of interest in creating Tramp Art in rural America, though it also flourished in Europe. A few folk art enthusiasts collected it.
Now, the International Folk Art Museum, perched on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, NM, has an exhibit of Tramp Art. It’s titled “No Idle Hands: The Myths and Meanings of Tramp Art.” I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It lifted my spirits. It made me want to get a pen knife and cigar box and start notching.
You may need to see a few samples to get the idea:
So if you’re lucky enough to be a vagabond, a nomad, or an itinerant tourist and can get yourself to Santa Fe, don’t miss this jewel-ish exhibit. It may make you long for the days when people sat on their couches creating—knitting and notching and conversing—rather than growing into potatoes.
Well, there’s nothing to stop us from making that choice now.