Do you have one of those friends who is both hypercreative and incredibly modest? The problem with these types of friends is that you see them, hang out with them, but it's really, really hard to keep up with with their creative output. My pal Clifton is just such a friend. The problem is compounded by the fact that whatever he is up to creatively, it can't be put into a neat box.
I'll hear one month that he's working with other graphic designers on information kiosks for small towns in Mississippi, then the next month he's teaching himself to write iPhone apps to pitch to traditional book publishers. Fragments of some of his projects tend to pop up on his website, cliftonburt.com, which also serves as a repository for his world class musings on whatever strikes his fancy that day. I hope I'm not making him sound frivolous...because he has more "game-changer" in his pinky toe than most people have in their whole body.
Folk Object is a Clifton-curated Tumblr reliquary for..well...folk objects. As he should, Clifton takes a broad view of what constitutes "folk". On the Folk Object site, you've got your curious expressions of nationalist craft rubbing shoulders with album covers, high fashion and distillations of "folk" sensibility that range from psychedelic to dollar store. Academically trained artists rub shoulders with craftspeople, designers and business people. It's up to you, the viewer to juxtapose everything and sort it all out.
All of this is offered up without wry commentary or even justification. In grand Tumblr style, viewers can register their approval or reblog the images. Folk Object makes it apparent that the Esperanto-leaning utopian impulses that started developing early in the last century are continuing apace. Objects in the "folk" vernacular have their own peculiar beauty and symbolism that is ripe for mashing up, reviving or exploiting.
A visit to Folk Object leaves me both shaken and stirred. I slap my forehead at the ways folk traditions are mined for their commercial potential and kitsch, but I'm also excited by the way their potency and shocked by their malleability.
I dare you to take a look through the pages of Folk Objects and walk through a thrift store without seeing the objects on the shelf anew. Prepare to have your paradigm shifted.