July 11, 2019
Local History Talk
New Hampshire Folk Art:
By the People, For the People
Tuesday August 20 | 7 – 8:30 PM
The library’s Local History series features authors and experts on local history topics. The series will continue with speaker Gerald W.R. Ward, on the history of Folk Art in New Hampshire!
“Folk art” is a broad umbrella term encompassing many types of artistic expression that lie outside the academic tradition of the so-called fine arts. That eclecticism is reflected in the variety of objects embraced by the term, including portraits, watercolors and drawings, elegant calligraphy, landscapes, decoys, rugs and quilts, trade signs, wood carvings, powder horns and scrimshaw, fire buckets, fanciful carved and painted furniture, and other types of individualistic and idiosyncratic works of art that are not easily classified. Each represents in its own way the fundamental human urge to create art, regardless of formal training, and also to embellish the artifacts of everyday life, allowing ordinary objects to provide visual pleasure and delight through color, patterning, and abstract forms.
In his illustrated lecture, based on the eponymous exhibition currently on view at the Portsmouth Historical Society that includes works from the collection of the Portsmouth Public Library, Ward will focus on folk art from public and private collections across the Granite State from the eighteenth century to the present. He will also take a look at some examples of ephemeral and privately owned folk art that enrich the Portsmouth land- and cityscape.
Gerald W.R. Ward is the Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture Emeritus at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He is also the consulting curator of the Portsmouth Historical Society, where he serves in addition as the editor of the Portsmouth Marine Society Press. He is an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where he teaches early American art. He is serving his fourth term as a New Hampshire State Representative, representing Rockingham District 28 (Portsmouth Ward 4). Gerry has been married since 1972 to Barbara McLean Ward, director-curator of the Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden in Portsmouth and a noted scholar of American silver and material culture. The Wards have lived in Portsmouth since 1988.
He is the curator of the Portsmouth Historical Society's summer exhibition on New Hampshire folk art and the author of the short catalogue accompanying the show. Among his many publications is the introduction to American Folk: Folk Art from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2001).