Charlie Willeto – Navajo

1556160Charlie Willeto was a Navajo medicine man trained in the ancient art of the illness doll—a ritual figure employed to draw sickness and suffering away from a human victim. In the last four years of his life, Willeto subverted the tradition of the illness doll, making some 400 figures that drew on this tradition, but carefully sidestepped the taboo of keeping these ceremonial figures within the realm of the living.

1556161His art worried tribal leaders at first, but soon he became recognized as a healer and artist of great vision and power. Willeto’s figures range from just a few inches tall to carvings measuring over four feet. He began carving late in life and produced a significant number of spirit figures and other works between 1960 and 1964.

Forty-six Willeto carvings have been acquired by Kohler Foundation from several sources over the past years. Each piece was carefully evaluated, meticulously cleaned, and conserved as needed. Conservation treatment was provided by objects conservator Meghan Mackey.

225 1554594 1554612The collection now resides at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Among the recent acquisitions of Willeto pieces was a generous gift from Margaret Robson. These two pieces are stellar examples of Willeto’s work, particularly the large fifty-inch carved weaver spirit figure with concho belt. An additional two works by Willeto were added to the collection in 2014. willeto1.28234534_std c75n-61 16704520_1_m 1556179

Charles Wysocki – American Celebration


Charles Wysocki was born in 1928 in Detroit, Michigan. From the time he was a little tot, he always wanted to be an artist. His father was an immigrant from Poland who worked on the assembly line at Ford Motor Co. for over 35 years. His father was not thrilled about his son’s artistic aspirations. Most of his encouragement came from his mother. She fully supported his artistic tendencies. Charles went to high school at Cass Technical High School and focused on their art program. For a time he worked as an apprentice in Detroit art studios. Then Uncle Sam snatched him up.

CharlesWysocki-HawkRiverHollowAfter leaving the Army, Charles attended Art Center in Los Angeles (it is now in Pasadena) on the G.I. Bill. After completing his studies, and majoring in design and advertising illustration, Charles joined the staff of freelance artists at McNamera Brothers in Detroit in 1955. He lived at home with his parents during this time. Charles moved to Los Angeles in 1959.

There he formed an advertising agency with three other artists called “Group West” and was very successful doing freelance commercial artwork. Some of his clients included General Tire, Unocal, Carnation, Chrysler, United California Bank, Otis elevator company, and Dow Chemical Co. to name a few. During this time he won numerous awards for his illustrative talents. Then he met Elizabeth, and she unleashed the primitive artist that was buried within him.

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His published numerous prints with them during this time from 1979-1993.  He also traveled around the country and made personal appearances at galleries all over the United States.  Charles won many awards for his work including one he is most proud of, receiving the medal of honor from the National Society Daughter’s of the American Revolution, the society’s highest national honor.  Charles also published two books during this time, “An American Celebration” in 1985 and “Heartland” in 1993.

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He also appeared in People magazine July 7, 1986, and was invited to the White House Independence Day celebration in 1981 (for which he did a painting that supposedly still hangs there).  Then he needed a break.

Charles painted his whole life, and up to his death at the age of 73.

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Samuel Anderson Robb – Cigar box


Samuel Anderson Robb (1851-1928) was an American sculptor, best known for his carved wooden figures for tobacco shops and circus wagons.

Robb was born in New York City, the son of a Scottish shipwright. He apprenticed to a shipbuilder (probably Thomas V. Brooks) for five years, then went to work for a wood-carver, making figures for tobacco shops, and attending night classes at the National Academy of Design and Cooper Union.

ad3a4d86d6eb74e8056b484c0dc13153 3beb66efe3611170eac3b2e635e2769eAfter his apprenticeship, he worked for William Demuth carving tobacco figures. In 1876 he married Emma Jane Pelham and opened his own carving shop. After Emma died in 1878, Robb married Agnes Loudon in 1881, with whom he had four children. He subsequently left his family, however, and had no communication with them for seventeen years, when he encountered Agnes on the street and the family was reunited.

Robb’s wood shop was the largest in nineteenth-century New York City, and he carved a wide variety of figures, from traditional cigar store Indians to circus wagons and ventriloquist dummies. 2008.26.1 481f3b956751cbe8f007f6967bf95198 4b45615e7c23d74b55cf5e360ca7041b

He closed his workshop at 114 Centre Street in 1903, after completing a set of circus wagon carvings for Barnum & Bailey

More about Samuel’s Sigar Shop



William Kautz – Traditional Craftsman


Will Kautz began his artistic training while he was still a young boy. His father, William Charles Kautz was a fine artist in New York and creativity was an important part of his home environment. He remembers sculpting marble beside his dad when he was still a boy. But as a young man, Will was often torn between a drive to be creative, and a desire to do something for the vulnerable in society.

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In 1980 he entered seminary and earned an M.A. in theology and ethics and was later appointed as a Research Fellow at Yale University. In 1985 he began full-time law school with a young family and no money. At this time Will began to carve. Initially, he hoped merely to pay a few tuition bills with whatever he could earn from his art but within a few weeks his designs began to sell as quickly as he could produce them.
indian gooseThe first year law student would study by day and carve by night. Three years later, Will completed law school and passed the Vermont bar exam. For the next ten years, Will maintained a volunteer law practice for victims of domestic violence while supporting his family with his art.

Through the years, Will has sold his work to numerous galleries and collectors around the world. His art has been displayed at the Museum of American Folk Art, the Shelburne Museum, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He has been chosen by Early American Homes magazine for its annual Directory of America’s Best Traditional Craftsmen, and is a juried member of

go to William site


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Grandma Moses – Life for drawing

1101531228_400Anna Mary Robertson Moses (September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961), known by her nickname Grandma Moses, was a renowned American folk artist. Having begun painting in earnest at the age of 78, she is often cited as an example of an individual successfully beginning a career in the arts at an advanced age. Her works have been shown and sold in the United States and abroad and have been marketed on greeting cards and other merchandise. Moses’ paintings are among the collections of many museums. The Sugaring Off was sold for US$1.2 million in 2006.

Sugaring Off, 1943, Grandma Moses

Sugaring Off, 1943, Grandma Moses

The New York Times said of her: “The simple realism, nostalgic atmosphere and luminous color with which Grandma Moses portrayed homely farm life and rural countryside won her a wide following. She was able to capture the excitement of winter’s first snow, Thanksgiving preparations and the new, young green of oncoming spring… In person, Grandma Moses charmed wherever she went. A tiny, lively woman with mischievous gray eyes and a quick wit, she could be sharp-tongued with a sycophant and stern with an errant grandchild”

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Moses painted scenes of rural life from earlier days, which she called “old-timey” New England landscapes. Moses said that she would “get an inspiration and start painting; then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.” She omitted features of modern life, like tractors and telephone poles, from her works of art.


Her early style is less individual and more realistic or primitive, despite her lack of knowledge of, or perhaps rejection of, basic perspective. Initially she created simple compositions or copied existing images. As her career advanced she created complicated, panoramic compositions of rural life.

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President Harry S. Truman presented her with the Women’s National Press Club trophy Award for outstanding accomplishment in art in 1949. Jerome Hill directed the 1950 documentary of her life, which was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1952, she published My Life’s History, her autobiography. In it she said “I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contented, I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” In 1955, she appeared as a guest on See It Now.

GrandmaMosesStamp1969 1918_fireboard_byGrandmaMosesMore About Grandma Moses

Warren Kimble


As “America’s Best Known Living Folk Artist,” Warren Kimble draws on more than 50 years of experience as a fine artist, educator, and antiques collector to create a casual but sophisticated style of American Folk Art.

His classic folk art features the animals, rural landscapes and buildings of Vermont. Warren Kimble’s paintings are universally appealing. They evoke a simpler and less complicated era.

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As Warren himself says, his style is “reminiscent of something that surrounds a person every day. It is simplistic, yet abstract.”

Warren graduated with a B.F.A. from Syracuse University in 1957. After an early career in advertising, he taught in public schools and later joined the art faculty at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vermont. His work has been profiled in Yankee Magazine, The Boston Globe, Vermont Public TV, and many other media outlets. In 2002, he received the highest alumni honor from Syracuse University, the George Arents Pioneer Medal. He is also the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont.


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Among his most popular images are barns, houses, animals and Americana themes that reflect his love for landscapes in Vermont and rural America. Warren often paints on carefully selected wood for his canvas, using 18th-century tabletops or cabinet doors that have textural qualities due to their use by past generations. His warm and unique color palette adds to the overall feeling of serenity in his paintings, which are widely sought after both in the U.S. and internationally.

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go to Warren site


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Martin Ramirez – Mexican folk



Martín Ramírez (January 30, 1895 – February 17, 1963) was a self-taught artist who spent most of his adult life institutionalized in California mental hospitals, diagnosed as a catatonic schizophrenic. He is considered to be one of the 20th centuries self-taught masters.

Ramirez migrated to the United States from Tepatitlan, Mexico to find employment, leaving behind his pregnant wife and three children. He worked on the railroads in California between 1925 and 1930. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, leaning towards catatonia. Ramírez spent over 30 years being institutionalized.

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At DeWitt, a visiting professor of psychology and art, Tarmo Pasto, came across Ramírez’s work and began to save the large-scale works Ramírez made using available materials, including brown paper bags, scraps of examining-table paper, and book pages glued together with a paste made of potatoes and saliva. His works display an idiosyncratic iconography that reflect both Mexican folk traditions and twentieth-century modernization: images of Madonnas, horseback riders, and trains entering and exiting tunnels proliferate in the work, along with undulating fields of concentric lines that describe landscapes, tunnels, theatrical prosceniums, and decorative patterns.


In January 2007, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City opened “Martín Ramírez,” the largest retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States in more than 20 years. The exhibition featured about 100 of the 300 drawings and collages that had then been known to exist. It was accompanied by a catalog that includes a biographical essay, written by sociologists Víctor M. Espinosa and Kristin E. Espinosa, which discusses many previously unpublished details of Ramírez’s life. 8).

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Peter Hunt – Charming Stuff

Peter Hunt born Frederick Lowe Schnitzer, 1896, in East Orange, New Jersey, – 1967 Cape Cod, was an American artist whose work is described as folk art or primitive art. He gained recognition for his art in the 1940s and 50’s when his decorated, refinished furniture was featured in magazines such as Life, House Beautiful and Mademoiselle.


He painted old furniture, household items, and fabrics, decorating them with colorful peasant designs, reminiscent of Pennsylvania German and French Provincial folk art. Hearts, flowers, fruits, birds, angels, and pretty maidens and their suitors adorned hutches, cabinets, dressers, tables, chairs, stools, wooden trays, fabrics, tins, and metalware. Hunt further embellished some of those pieces with pseudo-French phrases scrawled across their surfaces.

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With his artistic talent, good looks, charm, wit, and knack for outrageous storytelling, Hunt wooed and delighted wealthy matrons and high-society tastemakers vacationing on Cape Cod. They found him irresistible, and his cheerful designs the perfect look for their summer cottages. Hunt’s clients were rich and influential; among them were Boston socialite Frances Brown Merkel and New York cosmetics diva Helena Rubinstein, both of whom helped advance Peter Hunt’s name and reputation.

hunt-31 8495577_1Ask any collector to explain the lasting appeal of Peter Hunt, and you’ll get but one answer: “The stuff is charming.” I can’t argue with that.

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Diane U. Pedersen – Faith and Fascination


” It is hard to believe that I have now been painting in a folk art style for over half my life. What seemed like an experiment at the start seems now like a natural drawing together of many threads of my life: my traditional art style, my faith, and my fascination with our artistic and cultural history.


Having taken my first lessons at the Philadelphia Art Museum before entering grade school, I can’t remember life before art. I went on to earn a B.F.A. from Denison University. Then while working in an antique and decorating shop, I began painting naive portraits of children (real and imaginary).

In researching the portraits, I encountered other folk art forms: landscapes, still lifes, theorem paintings, stenciling and faux graining, needlework, sculpture, scherenschnitte, etc. I became fascinated with the stylizations, the colors, the textures, and the crackled and aged finishes. The feeling of peace, light-heartedness, and friendly openness I found there resonated with me.

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Incorporating subjects, forms, and techniques from 18th and 19th century folk art, I gradually developed a personal style to apply to not only portraits, but landscapes and still lifes as well. Many pieces are inspired by short verses from the Bible.

My paintings are original compositions on gessoed fiberboard, plastic laminate, wood, canvas, or paper. I work with acrylics in two basic styles: one resembling watercolors and the other, oils. The “oil” paintings incorporate layers of color and have a crackled finish achieved through a series of glazes applied over the artwork.


Since the early 1970s, I have exhibited at juried arts festivals and folk art shows in the Northeast; have displayed my work in galleries, designer showcases, schools and churches; and have sold work to specialty shops around the country. My paintings have been selected regularly for the Early American Life Directory of Traditional American Crafts.

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Over the years my art has been found on wallpaper borders, greeting cards, calendars, gift bags, collector plates, framed prints, furniture accessory pieces, woven throws, wallhangings, pillows, placemats, coasters, trivets. custom wood puzzles, and floormats.

go to Diane Site


Anna Williams – Fiber Artist


Anna Williams was a self-taught quilter considered one of the twentieth century’s most significant fiber artists. Using no templates and eschewing blocking, a process of straightening and flattening fabric, Williams created freehand, improvisational designs embodying a polyrhythmic African-American aesthetic. The visual complexity of her work, which belies the craft’s humble origins as well as her own quiet, unassuming nature, continues to influence scores of contemporary quilt artists.


Williams was born in East Baton Rouge Parish on a plantation owned by the Kleinpeters, a prominent family of Swiss descent who farmed sugar, cotton, and sweet potatoes. Working in the fields as a child, she learned to quilt from her mother and grandmother and used their remnants, however small, to fashion her own designs.

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Reflective of her childhood experience in using modest fabric scraps, she trimmed any large pieces of material into many small shards before starting. The individual geometric shapes would, in turn, be paired and sewn together, whether in rectangular strip-pieced “strings” or triangular “monkey wrench” patterns. Williams initially sewed her quilts by hand but eventually began using a sewing machine, allowing her to increase her productivity and work on several coverings at once.

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Following her 1990 debut, Williams’s quilts were showcased in the American Quilters Society’s Anna Williams: Her Quilts and Their Influence in 1995 and the Louisiana State University Textile & Costume Museum’s Joyful Improvisations: The Quilts of Anna Williams in 1999. She was also included in the 2009 Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, where one of her works was featured on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. Her quilts are in the permanent collections of the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky; and the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. Such displays have introduced Williams’s work to legions of contemporary quilters who cite her significant, even liberating, influence on their own artistic expressions.

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