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Tramp Art Exhibit to Open at Museum of International Folk Art

Tramp Art Exhibit to Open at Museum of International Folk Art

Tramp Art

Tramp Art is about to get major attention at the The Museum of International Folk Art when it opens its No Idle Hands: The Myths & Meanings of Tramp Art exhibit on March 12, 2017. Featured in the exhibit will be more than 150 tramp art examples from the United States, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and France.

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According to The Museum of International Folk Art, this will be the first large-scale museum exhibition dedicated to tramp art since 1975.  The exhibit will also tackle the controversy, myth, and false perceptions that surround world of tramp art.

Tramp Art used to be a trending artistic movement where small pieces of wood, usually from old cigar boxes and crates used for shipping, were notch-carved along the edges then layered into objects. It is described as a type of “chip-carving woodwork.” The movement was mainly practiced in the United States and Europe from the 1870s to the 1940s.

“The ingenious objects in the Tramp Art exhibition use recycled or repurposed wood, and highlight a moment in time a century ago when artisans, many of them immigrants to the US, created a new variety of folk art,” says the Director of the Museum for International Folk Art, Khristaan D. Villela. “They are a testament to the ability of untrained artists to produce objects of immense beauty and complexity.”

Tramp Art got its name from the belief that itinerants and hobos were responsible for the creations and movement. According to the Museum of International Folk Art, “It has been demonstrated, however, that this belief, first put in print by Frances Lichten in a 1959 Pennsylvania Folklife article, is erroneous. Nonetheless, the name “tramp art” has remained the only terminology used for this practice, and the paucity of scholarly studies to dispel the mistaken notions about tramp art have allowed the myths to persist.”

“Tramp art’s place in art history has been troublesome,” says Laura Addison, Curator of North American and European Folk Art at the Museum of International Folk Art. “It has had detractors—people who regard it as ’the ugly duckling’ of folk art—but also numerous champions. This exhibition will erase any doubts about the quality and craftsmanship of the work and situate tramp art as a practice at the crossroads of cultural transformation at the turn of the 20th century.”

The No Idle Hands exhibit will present tramp art objects from four primary areas:

  1. Introduction/historical context
  2. home & nation
  3. frames & boxes
  4. devotional objects

The exhibition will run from March 12, 2017 through September 16, 2018. The Museum of International Folk Art is located on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico.