Why does everything look dirty and old? What
is “primitive” anyway?
If you are asking
yourself these types of questions, let me
try to explain a bit.
I like to think of “primitive” as an
expression of history; generally post
industrial revolution. During this time,
people didn’t have money to just go out and
buy what they wanted or needed; or even the
materials to make it.
Instead, they had to
make do with what they had.
using old/ripped clothes to make quilts, or
using a glass as a base for a pincushion.
Now, we look back at what they had made
during the depression; and think of it as
works of art; for they are part of our
American history. Most pieces look like
something a mother had made for her child at
a time when the family couldn’t afford to
buy a doll or toy.
People who made these
items weren’t necessarily skillful at what
they did; they were more “works of love”
than masterful works of art.
Looking at an
item made from this era; you can tell how
much care and love was put into every
stitch. Each button, each piece of lace or
fabric was carefully chosen to complete
Though the original artists may have lacked
skill, it takes great skill to replicate
their items. What we as modern artists are
trying to recreate, is something that was
essentially “made from nothing.” So instead
of going out to the store and picking out
what products we need to accomplish this; we
also have to use what we have at hand, or
use what we think they might have had; which
is far more challenging.
is that primitive art has an old or antique
look; and vintage materials are not so
readily available. In turn, modern artists
have to begin with new materials, and
recreating that antique patina can get a
little tricky. Each artist has their own
recipe for what they may call “the grunging
process.” Some recipes will turn a fabric
yellow; some make dark splotches... the goal
being to make it look worn and old.
But why have we all fallen in love with
I think one aspect is that
when you look at primitive art; it reminds
you of home. It has a distinct feeling to it
and you could tell it was handmade with
It’s that one teddy bear, or that one
doll that was so loved by a child, it was
hugged and slept with until it was worn out.
When we see primitive art, we think of our
own cherished toys... it revives our
memories, gives us comfort, and it reminds
us of the simpler things in life. But most
of all; it makes us smile.