Mel in a Handbasket
One notable quality that folk artists all seem to share is opportunism. You can't blame artists for knowing where their bread is buttered--it's the reason there are a bazillion photographers out there making money from taking pictures of puppies and kitties, but sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. Above is a picture of a Mel Gibson piece on an old board that didn't even have time for the varnish to dry before it was whisked off to FolkFest. By the end of the show, though, it hadn't sold, and the $450 price tag was thoughtfully lowered to $150. I guess the artist figured that by the time next year's show rolled around, it would be worthless.
There is plenty of money to be made by memorializing people and events. When buying art, people tend to stay within their comfort zones and buy art that has a connection with something else they like. Hell, I'll cop to buying a portrait of Luther Vandross by an amazing autistic artist shortly after Luther's death. At FolkFest, I saw pieces commemorating such incongruous figures as bass player Jaco Pastorius and the mauling of Roy from Siegfred and Roy. If I had piles of cash, I would've bought the Roy piece in a heartbeat. I'm going to try to find a picture of it to post here, in fact.
The most striking thing at FolkFest is that commerce is never far from the viewer's mind. For an event that holds "authenticity" as its core belief, it immediately becomes apparent that credibility and authenticity are such ephemeral subjects that it's impossible to sort things out. Therein lies the fun, though. I'll keep coming back to FolkFest because it makes me think....I just wish a few more people buying crayon Elvis portraits would wrestle with the demons that I do when they whip out their wallet. After all, you can't say "folk" without saying "faux" at the same time.