American folk art is a 20th century term that was coined by collectors, professional artists, critics, dealers, and curators whose search for an authentic American art was answered by a type of work that presented a nuanced picture of national identity, faith, progress, ingenuity, community, and individuality. Folk art’s hallmark quality is its utilitarian aspect which separates it from from the elite or professional product that constitutes mainstream art. Because of this, folk art has a tendency to stress local needs and tastes. Oftentimes, an artist will use materials that were local or found “objects,” which required their unique eye to imagine how the object could be incorporated. This adds to the work’s charm and aesthetics, as no two artists see things the same way, but it can also make the restoration tricky. To mend a section, or to replace it, is usually the moral quandary a conservator with be faced with.
This beekeeper came in with breaks along the stick, where the beehive sat. To keep as much of the original as possible, we chose to mend the broken pieces by drilling and then plugging with 1/16″ dowel. In-painting matched the original colors and a very small amount of Milliput was used to strengthen the hand. We were very pleased to honor the artist’s original material and complete the restoration without replacing any parts.