Lily Yeh integrates folk artists into the restoration and revitalization projects she identifies as part of her fine art practice.
Lily Yeh has converted the drawings of children and villagers into murals and mosaics to brighten the drab walls of the local architecture in Palestine, Nairobi, Rwanda, and North Philadelphia. Thus, her professional fine art practice utilizes the imaginations and talents of non-professional artists to determine imagery, colors, lines, and forms. In this manner folk art is folded into fine art. Contemporary folk art is typically created by individuals who are self-taught and who do not live and work within the community of professionally trained artists. Lily Yeh integrates folk artists into the restoration and revitalization projects she identifies as part of her fine art practice.
Folk art has factored into the fine artworks of many European and American artists. Jean Michel Basquiat, Wassily Kandinsky, and Juan Miro are all esteemed within the history of fine art, and all were greatly influenced by folk art.
a. Yeh diverges from this tradition. She is not merely influenced or inspired by folk art, she actually incorporates it. While others who appropriate the creativity of non-artists might be accused of exploitation, explain how and why Yeh actually contributes to the well-being of these non-artists.
b. Like Yeh, the following artists in this book encourage the production of art by non-professionals. They, too, integrate it into their projects: Mel Chin’s incorporates childrens’ art in his Fundred Dollar Bill project; Hundertwasser provides ‘window rights’ to residents of his buildings; Marjectica Potrc’s encourages spontaneous construction among slum residents. Consider the creative output by the children who provided Yeh’s mural images and by the participants in any project named above. How does their significance and meaning change when it became a component of a professional artist’s project?
c. Instead of specializing, Lily Yeh takes a holistic approach to art making, attending to:
– The physiological need for food, sleep, shelter, potable water, air
– The mental need for stimulation and creative challenge
– The spiritual need to expand the limits of the self
– The psychological need for dignity, independence, and pride
Identify an art project by any four artists from this book and identify which of the four ‘needs’ it addresses. Compare how Yeh and that artist fulfill each need.