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ANGEL OF PARADISE Hosanna Dupuis c. 1975 Painted pressboard 373 / 4 21%" Les patenteux

creative types suddenly began to collect folk art, some of the pieces were more important for their nose-thumbing value than for their aesthetic quality. One collector—turned—research scholar is quoted in the Les Paradis du monde catalog as saying, "We collected some real monstrosities!" The work of sorting the good stories from the not-so-good art is still taking place in both countries. Galipeau admits to a partiality to les patenteux, and she has assembled a diverse gathering of their works from the seventies to the present. Pieces by some of the early discoveries are already considered "classics," like the dioramas of Archelas Poulin (1891-1969), which, like many of the pieces in the Sharpe Collection, relate more to the past than to the present. Poulin was a logger who was injured when a load of logs fell on his back. To earn money, he carved in wood the Stations of the Cross, put them in a trailer, and toured Canada and the upper United States until an employee stole his exhibit. Not to be deterred, he next carved dioramas of the months of the year, featuring old-fashioned farm scenes with cloth-dressed wooden figures and props. He later constructed his masterpiece, the automated Ballroom (late 1940s) crammed with hundreds of elegantly dressed patrons. He mounted these pieces in a schoolbus and toured with them, asking visitors to give what they could. The Canadian Museum of Civilization has restored these treasures, and they are among the most intriguing pieces in the exhibition. Also included were the works of Hosanna Dupuis,Edward Chatigny, and Georges Bedard.


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Louise de Grosbois, Raymonde Lamothe, and Lise Nantel—replaced aesthetics with a populist approach to folk art.

Hosanna Dupuis (1898-1987) lived in a painted frame house he built himself. Its outside was decorated with painted reliefs, including the sun, a moon, a Sacred Heart, L'ange du paradis (The Angel of Paradise), and other religious motifs. Parts of his display live on in the museum along with small freestanding pieces of toylike sculpture in painted wood and metal. Whether they were fish, rockets, or flying bugs, all these works were called Jouets de Dieu (Playthings of God). A farmer and whittler turned sculptor in his old age, Edward Chatigny produces crudely carved wood flowers, birds, and animals. He paints them in bright colors, adding spots and stripes, and often assembles them in groups upon stool-like pedestals. While most of les patenteux work in three dimensions, Georges Bedard uses two, painting Canadian landscapes or cities copied from history books. Despite artistic aspirations as a child, he had only a few years of schooling before he was sent into the sawmills by his father to learn on-the-job skills. When his first wife was ill and he had to stay home to care for her, he started painting to relieve the boredom. What started as a way to spend time and to make something for his children became the career he had always hoped for. He uses acrylic paint with textural additives on cardboard, Masonite, or wood.

"Les Paradis du monde" included a few of the museum's acquisitions from the 1990s, likes Dragster, a race car executed in wood, plastic, and metal by Andy Lacroix, so elongated that it looks like it was made of pulled putty, and a religious assemblage of beads, shells, and jewelry by Brother Palmerino. There is also a selection of hard-to-classify pieces collected in one corner so that visitors can apply their own aesthetics to things like a Mickey Mouse hooked rug (c. 1975)—is it art, kitsch, or something in between? This exhibition by the Canadian Museum of Civilization may not define "folk art," but under Pascale Galipeau's capable direction, it certainly exposes some of the biases that have gone into selecting works we consider "genuine" and asks probing questions about how each of us sorts out and accepts (or rejects) controversial pieces. The show may travel, most probably within Canada, and if it does, it is well worth making an effort to see it. * N.F. Karlins, the art criticfor the New York City newspapers The Westsider and Chelsea Clinton News, has on several occasions been a guest curatorfor the Museum ofAmerican Folk Art. She received her doctorate in American Studies, specializing infolk art,from New York University and has lectured and written on Americanfolk artfor many years.


Folk Art (Spring 1997)  

Magnificent Manifestation: The Symbolic Architecture of A.G. Rizzoli • So Much to Do, So Little Done: The Mysteries of A.G. Rizzoli • Quilt...

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