A World of Folk Art Comes to PenArt

From wool weavings to hand carved jade, folk art from throughout the world will be on display in the exhibition Creative Customs: International Folk Art from Oct. 21 to Dec. 30 at Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek.

The works were created by artists in China, India, Mexico and the southern United States, but have been curated from galleries and collectors in Door County.

Orren Bradley said he and his wife, Marilyn, have collected American folk art because it “comes from the heart.”

“These artists express their feelings with work that relates to their lives,” he said. “Folk art tells a story. The artists explore ideas through whatever is available and familiar to them—be it barn or house paint, or discarded roofing tin.”

After donating many pieces to prestigious museums such as the Smithsonian, the couple agreed to display a handful of their remaining cherished pieces in Creative Customs. With imagery of devils, preachers and angels, these works reflect a strong Baptist religious influence.

Other collections in this exhibition further underscore the theme of the folk artists’ work being defined by surroundings and experience.

The weavings on display are those created by Wence Martinez and his late father, Cosme, as a tribute to the elder’s great influence on his son’s life and work. The weavings are made of hand-spun wool sheared from sheep in the artists’ native Teotitlán del Valle village in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Although the use of modern acrylic paints and inks has become commonplace in the works of artists of the Bhil and Gond tribes of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh—displayed courtesy of the Sutra Gallery in Ellison Bay—the paintings are rich in their representation of area wildlife, traditional religious ceremonies, symbolism, and mythology.

Central to her work and that of members of the Bhil tribe, featured artist Lado Bai uses dots of paint to provide structure to her paintings. Without the ability to speak of her world in written words, Lado tells the story of a “Gal Bapsi” ceremony in a large-scale painting of the same name.

A handful of Gond artists present their work in this exhibition. Sutra co-owners Abbey Box and husband Jitendra Suman describe these delicate paintings as “consisting of dots and fine line images that appear to float or drift, and are weightless in their impression.”

On view is one of the most distinctive Chinese sculptural genres: root carving. Featuring people, animals or objects carved out of natural or distorted tree roots, tradition dictates that the major portion of the sculpture remain in the natural shape of the root.

Sandra and Wence Martinez, and collectors Marilyn and Orren Bradley will discuss the roles of folk artist and collector at a panel discussion during the opening reception on Oct. 21, 4 – 6 pm. The exhibition and related special events are free and open to the public. For more information visit



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