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FindingtheFolkwaysofaForensicAnthropomorphologist: TheKentuckyYardArtEnvironmentofCecilandBetIson

JenniferJoyJameson FolkStudies
WesternKentuckyUniversity

2011

Imanarchaeologistbyschooling,aforensicanthropomorphologistbytraining,a commissionerbyappointment,andagentlemanbyGod.CecilR.Ison

InthispaperIdiscussthecreativeendeavorsandidentitiesofCecilR.Ison,

andhiswifeBetIson.Theseincludebothmaterialcreationsandtheperformed narrativesthatframethesecreations.CecilandBetliveinthesmallvillageof Elliottville,justoutsideofMorehead,inRowanCounty,Kentucky,atthewestern edgeofAppalachia.ThecountyishometoMoreheadStateUniversityandthe CumberlandDistrictoftheDanielBooneNationalForest.CecilIsonisaVietnam veteranandapublished,retiredchiefarchaeologistattheDanielBooneNational Forest,whereheworkedfromthelate1970stohisretirementin2004.Cecilwas borninElliottville,atacabinjustfurtherdownTrentRidgefromwhereheandBet nowlive,inthehomehisparentsgiftedtothem.TheHomeforWayward Babydolls,asCecilandBetrefertotheirhomesite,isasortofextendedyardart,or artenvironmentbuiltmostlybyCecil,butwithmuchinvolvementfromBetand others,whichstretchesthroughouttheirproperty,includingtheirhouse,a smokehousecabin,twolargebarns,afewsmallerbarnsandshacks,andthewoods ontheirridgeaswellasCecilsmothershomejustuptheroad.

Figure1.PortraitofCecilandBetIsoninfrontofthesmokehouse.

AsIapproachedthehomeupintothetallandvasthinterlandsofRowan

County,Iwasgreetedwithcolorful,decoratedassemblagesinteractingwithevery bitofnatureandeverystructureontheirpartofTrentRidge.AsIconducted fieldworkduringvisitsinthefallseasonof2010andthesummerof2011,I encounteredpatchworkupholsteredtrees,portraitsandcosmicscenesmadeout ofalignedbottlecaps,characterscarvedoutoffoundwoodanddecoratedwith recycleditems,muralsonthebarns,andhumansizedsculpturesofflowersmade outofscrapmetalandmaterials,amongothersuchworks. Wheninterestedfriendsandtouristsvisitthesite,thefocusismost

specificallyonCecilsassemblagesofdiscardedandfoundbabydolls,asindicatedin thenamingofthesiteandinthepassingonofwittyHomeforWaywardBabydolls ephemeralikeannualcalendarposters(eachposterprintcoincidentallynumbered 1of100)ormatchbooksthatreadAbabydollisaterriblethingtowaste! Reflectiveofhisexperiencesas anarcheologistandparttime forensicanthropologist,and hislocalizedinclinationto makecreativeuseoffound


Figure2.Cecil's"business"card.

materialsandrefuse,Cecilhascreatedatongueincheeknarrativeaboutmanyof theassemblages.HecallshimselfthePresidentoftheInternationalSocietyfor ForensicAnthropomorphology,inwhichheexaminestheratesofdecayand sourceoftraumainflictedupontheseanthropomorphs,postchildsplay (interviewswiththeIsons,October28andNovember6,2010).Althoughthis 3

narrativeiscentraltotheprocessandproductoftheassemblage,CecilandBet continuetobuildtheenvironment,andwiththat,theirartisticrepertoire,including everythingfromcarefullyplacedrubberduckstoskillfullycraftedmurals.

Figures34.Creativeuseofdiscardedmaterials,orwhatBetreferstoasjunkingattheHome forWaywardBabydolls.

InthispaperIhopetobroadenandupdatethediscourseonthefolkloristic

aspectsofartthatisoftenconsideredtoopersonal,tooeclectic,[or]too idiosyncratictoqualifyasfolkart(Zug1994:145).Iusethecasestudyofthefolk artofCecilandBetIsontonotonlyexaminetheprocess,style,andaestheticsof theirwork,butalsotosuggesttheirmaterialcultureanditsnarrativeasaliving, breathingexampleofwhatBarreToelkennotesastheprocessoffolklore; somethingthatislocal,informal,andcommunalallaspectsthatarespecificto, andevidentintheIsonsdecoratedhomeplace(Toelken1996:34). FIELDWORKANDMETHODOLOGY Discourseonthistopicisoftenaccompaniedbyloadedacademicand

professionalterminologysuchasselftaught,idiosyncratic,outsider, visionary,orgrassroots,eachwithitsownhistoryandvariationsinimplication, ascoinedbyartcurators,arthistorians,orhumanitiesscholarsfascinatedbythe creativeculturalworldnotboundbytheinstitutional.Researchconcerningartthat 4

landssomewherebetweenlearnedatthekneeandcompletelyinnovativeor singular,hasledtowhatsomerefertoastermwarfare,anacridbutultimately healthydebateinestablishingsoundaestheticandethnographicapproachesto folkartandartists.(Zug1994:145)Recognizingthishistoryofdebateand contention,Ijoinotherfolkloristswhoseektonotonlymaintainourdistinctiveway ofdocumentingandinterpretingfolkculture,butalsohopetocontinuebuilding bridgeswiththosescholarswithoverlappinginterestinthissubject,believingthat thiscanenhanceandbenefitouracademicinterpretationofthistypeofcreativityin everydaylife. AftercontactingAdrianSwain,ArtisticDirectorofthestatefundedKentucky

FolkArtCenter,Mr.SwaindirectedmetowardtheIsonsHomeforWayward BabydollsinMorehead.Hesentmeafewnewspaperandmagazinearticleswritten aboutCecilsartandhislife,whichledmetobelievethatthereweremany folkloristicelementstotheprocessandproductofbuildingtheIsonsart environment.Iswiftlyscheduledatimetovisitwith,andinterviewCecilandBet. THESTORY BornandraisedjustdowntheridgeinElliottville,Cecilmethiswifewhen

theywereundergraduatesinarchaeologyatacollegeinColorado,andmarriedher in1974.BetIson,borninMadison,Wisconsin,isthedaughteroftwoMasters educatedsocialworkers.Herfamilymovedaroundfromonesuburban neighborhoodtoanotherinOhio,SouthDakota,andtheninColorado.Inthelate 1960s,CecilwasdraftedtoserveintheVietnamWar,whereheheldapostnearChu Lai(Dobie2007).

WhenCecilsgrandmotherpassedawayinthespringof1982,hisparents

thoughtCecil,Betandtheirnewbabygirl,Sunshine,werelivingtoofarawayin Lexington,wheretheywerebothfinishingupMastersdegreesinarchaeologyand libraryscience,respectively.So,hisparentsgiftedthemwithCecilsgrandmothers homeinElliottville.BetandCecilsaidthatbuildingtheartenvironmentattheirnew homewasanaturalprocessthatdoesnothaveclearlydefinedorigins.Therewas, however,precedenttothebuiltenvironmentinCecilsdecorationofhiscarrelatthe archaeologyresearchlaboratoryattheUniversityofKentucky,from197783.Cecil startedcollecting,decoratinganddisplayingreligiousparaphernaliaandephemera onhisTabernacleofFaith.Hehadholographicpicturesofangels[],holyoil,an autographedpictureofJesusChrist,andprayerclothsfrom[televangelist]R.A. West.Hesaidfacetiously,IwasanR.A.Westdevotee[]Ihadacalendarwith Jesusinacornfield,whichistrulyamiracle,sincecornisaNewWorldplant. Notlongafter,CecilstartedworkingfortheUSForestServiceintheDaniel

BooneNationalForest.Occasionally,hewouldcomeacrossahardplasticbody partinthemidstoftheforest.Thatswhereitallbegan: Idoresearchonclothbodies,andotheranthropomorphs,butmyspecialtyis hardplasticbodies.Iexaminethosecreatedpost1950.Istartedcollecting thesevictimsoutinthewoods.OnedayasIreturnedtomyvehicle[there] wasaseveredheadwithaticknailedtoitsforehead.Ithought,Thisdoes notseemlikechildsplay.Thisseemstobetheevilsideofthefieldof anthropomorphology.So,Ibeganmyquesttodocumentandtrytosolve,as bestIcould,thecrimesthatwereinflicteduponthesehardplastic anthropomorphs,postchildsplay.MyofficewiththeForestServicebecame ajointofficeforForensicAnthropomorphology. MuchofCecilsnarrativeframeworkfortheartandassemblageslendscontextto thesepiecesandtheirpresentation.Forexample,aftermyfirstinterviewwiththe Isons,wewalkedwiththedogsintow,downtothelowerbarn,coveredinwide, 6

expansiveandstrikingmurals incorporatingdiscardedcompactdiscs amongotherrefuse.Insidethebarnwas acollectionofstrunganthropomorphs. Cecilpulledonedownandtoldme aboutthedemiseofaPeeWeeHerman doll:likelydrivenoverbyacar(fig.5).



Figure5.Cecilexplainsthedemiseofan anthropomorph.

AstheIsonswalkaroundtheirhome,

theyapplypersonificationstonearlyevery object.Onecharactercarvedoutofalimbfrom anappletreeanddecoratedwithbottlecaps, withagardentoolforaforkedtail,whoiscalled DevilBoyhashisownstory,dependingonhis currentassemblage.ThefirsttimeIvisited, DevilBoystoodnexttoabrokenphonebooth


Figure6.DevilBoystandsatthe receiver.PhotobyBetIson.

thatCecilsnephewfoundanddroppedoff.Bet said,Wellgivehimthereceiver,anditllbelike

WhotheDevilscallingnow?Hence,hewasplacedwiththetelephonereceiverin hisarm(seefig.6).CecilandBetimpliedthattheiroriginstoriesofspecific anthropomorphsandotheritemsoftenshift,andmanyaretypicallymadeupon thespotasinterestedpartiessingleoutparticularitemsforcontext. 7

Figure7.TireplanterfeaturinganthropomorphsandbejeweledtinflowersmadebyCeciland Bet.

HenryGlassiereferstoassemblageasacollectionofcommodities

assembledintodomesticsettings.Hesuggeststhatthestudyofmaterialculture helpsustolearnhowothersmanageintheworldweshare.(Glassie1975)The wayCecilandBetandtheirfamilialandregionalcommunitymanageintheirdayto daycanbeseeninthewhimsysuppliedbythesestories.Inaninterview,Cecilbroke intoperformanceofhisusualscript:Imanarchaeologistbyschooling,aforensic anthropomorphologistbytraining,acommissionerbyappointment,anda gentlemanbyGod.Hethenwentontoexplain: Mysocalledart:IveneverreallyconsideredanyofwhatIdoasart. Ijustconsideritplayingwithobjectsthatwouldendupinalandfill andneverseethelightofdayagain.Sothisway,paintthatwouldbe recycledintoalandfillitgetstoshineabarn.Perhapsababydollthat hasbeenabandonedandcoveredwithmudgetsresurrectedand hangsonafencesoshecanwatchthetrafficandthesunriseevery morning.

Finally,Cecilreturnedtohispracticedpublicpoetry,mentioningthatheisa MinisteroftheCloth:Idomarryings,buryings,cursesremoved,andautomobiles blessedaswellasfunerals.

Figure8.CecilIsondoes,indeed,officiateweddings!PhotocourtesyPaulWilliams,2010.

Certainlyofnoteisthispublicandprivatedynamicoftheworkscreatedand

theirpresentationoftheworkstotheoutsider.CecilandBetpresenttheircreative workspubliclythroughtheirmysteriousandfantasticalcreatednarrativeofthe studyofforensicanthropomorphology,butthevisualandexperientialnatureof theartisenhancedbytherelativelyprivatecontextualknowledgeoftheIsons extensivebackgroundinarchaeologyandthecreativereuseofmaterialsstressed amongCecilsfamily,tonamejustafewinfluentialfactors.AdrianSwain,Artistic DirectoroftheKentuckyFolkArtCenternotedtomethattheHomeforWayward Babydollsremainsengagingtohimbecauseofthesortoffactualbasisforitin Cecils[personal]andprofessionalpast. 9

THEPLACE AsjournalistKathieDobiewroteforGentlemansQuarterlyina2007article:

Cecilissurroundedbyfamily.TheIsonspopulatetworidges,Trent andKegley,andthesmallcemeterywheretheywillalllieonedaysits atopasmallhillnexttothehaybarn.[]Cecilstwobrothers,Big JamesandArnold,livewiththeirfamiliesfartherdownTrentRidge. Hismother,hisnephews,andtheirchildrenliveonTrentoralongthe roadthatrunsbetweenthetworidges.Theyvisitoneanother constantly. BettoldmethatshehadcountedupthevisitorstheyhadonarandomSaturday, totaling29individuals,includingfriendsandtourists,butlargelyfamily.Cecils connectionwithhishomeplaceisevidentinthewayhehasaddedhisaesthetic touchtothetreesandthehillsandeventheditches.Betseemstohavecompletely adoptedthispatchoflandandthisregionasherhomeplaceaswell,asshegetsa bounceortrembleinhervoicewhenshespeaksaboutit.Cecilinterpretedthe significanceoftheirplace: Placeismagical[]Iamaproductofthisparticularland,righthere.WhenI wasconceived,thefoodstuffscamefromthisland,thebreadcamefromthe land,themeat,thevegetablesdid.[Thisplace]hascreptintomyveinsso muchthatIwoulddieifitwouldbelikeseveringatreebutaslongasIm inthisplace,Icangrowtoalong,oldage.
Figure9.Thelower barnnearthewoods withmuralsonall sidesofthestructure, includingamuralofa giantcatontheroof.

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Aswewalkedintothewoodsontheirproperty,CecilandBetpointedout(placed andassembled)itemsthroughoutthelandscape;dollsburiedunderleaves,alog withalineofpinktoyponies,andasmallpondmadeoutofanoldsatellitedish, whichthedogsdrankoutof.Theartseemedalmostendless,asitcontinuedinthe mostunlikelyspaces.

Figure10.Cecilstandswithhisdogsinfrontofthepondthathemadeoutofafoundsatellite dish.

JohnDorstwritesabouttheuseofwhathecalledcomicsubterfugeinthe

yardartofJakeDellosofWyoming.Henotedtheartifactual/visualpracticaljoke thatDellosmadeinapostpullerthatheconstructedtolooklikeadecorative cannon(Dorst1999:143).ThiskindofslickwhimsyisevidentinmuchoftheIsons constructedenvironment;forexample,thiscanbeseeninthepondmadeoutofa satellitedish(seefig.10).Itislikelythatapasserbywouldnotnoticetheuseofsuch mechanicalpartsunlessitwaspointedouttothem,asitwastome,amongother particularlycuriousvisitors.Similarly,theoverallcreatednarrativeoftheHomefor WaywardBabydollssuggestsacomedicandalmostcarnivalesqueethos 11

demonstrativeofthiskindofvisualpracticaljokeaprankentirelywelcomedand celebratedbyparticipantsandfansoftheIsonshomeenvironment. THEISONS,THEART,ANDTHEFOLKLOREPROCESS Thereare,andwillcontinuetobemanydifferentwaystointerpretthe

culturalimplicationsofthefolkassemblageandaestheticoftheHomeforWayward Babydolls,butforthepurposesofthiscasestudy,IlluseBarreToelkensmodelof thefolkloreprocesstoconsiderthefolkloristicaspectsevidentintheinformal, communal,andlocaldynamicsofCecilandBetsyardartenvironment.Folklorist JeanneThomasnotes,Yarddecoration,whichColleenSheehycallsoneofourmost pervasiveformsofpublicart(Thomas1998:25)[]isinformallyacquired;one doesntusuallyconsulthowtobooksorattendspecialschoolstodetermine concretegooseplacement(57).WhenIaskedhowthedecorationgotstarted,Bet repliedtome,Itsjustlikeyougotallthisjunkaroundandyoumightaswelldo somethingwithit.Anothersignificantfactordemonstratingtheinformalnatureof theartisthatitisneverprofessionallycommissionedorsoldtothepublic,oreven betweenfamilymembers.Similarly,evenwiththeinterestofjournalistsandart curatorslikeMr.Swain,Cecilsarthasnotbeenformallyexhibitedinartgalleries andmuseums,andCecildoesnotseektoberepresentedinthatarena. AlthoughtheyardassemblageandartisgivendirectionbyCecilscreated

narrativeasthepresidentoftheInternationalSocietyforForensic Anthropomorphology,andbyhisartisticabilityandaesthetic,itisclear,after spendingsometimewiththeIsons,thattheHomeforWaywardBabydollsisa thoroughlycommunalandcollaborativeeffort.Folkartscholarandfolklorist MichaelOwenJoneshassuggestedthatartistsgroupedinto[thiscategoryof 12

outsiderart]arenotwithoutcommunity.Indeed,itisasenseofcommunionor communitasthatoftenresultsfromtheirartistryorthatmotivatesit.(Jones 1994:317)ThisisevidentinthemanycommunalorpublicconnectionsthatCecil andhisartengender.ElliottOringhasarguedthesmallestoperatingfolkgroupas thefolkdyad.(Oring1992:13544)AsinterpretedbyToelken,itistwopeople whoparticipateinanongoingrelationshipwhichissoclosethateachpartner providesanimmediatereflexivecounterparttotheother.(57)CecilandBetarea fineexampleofafolkdyadastheirhighcontextrelationshipprovidesan interchangingnetworkforthefolklorebuiltfromtheirsharedexperiencesand aesthetic.Theycontinuetobear,createandsharefolklore,whetheritbefolk speech,folknarrative,orfolkartbetweenthemselvesandwiththeirlarger community.ItcouldbesuggestedthatCecilsartisticaestheticisinfluencedbyBets ownaesthetic,andBetsinfluencedbyCecils,astheyoftenprovideeachotherwith achecksandbalancessystemofjudgingtheircreationsaesthetically.Theyalso inspireoneanotherscreativity. WhileCecilcreatesacosmic sceneonasatellitedishthatwill soonbehungasacarportfor Betscar(seefig.9),Betdresses themannequinsontheporchin
Figure11.ThreeCrossesassemblagebyBet,including theanthropomorphmotif.

allblackforHalloween.Cecils

anthropomorphicmotifisevenseeninworkscreatedsingularlybyBet, representativeoftheIsonstyle,asshecreatedherThreeCrossesassemblage withbabydollheadsandotherfoundobjects(seefig.11). 13

Figure1213.Left:CecilstandsinfrontofTheCosmos,asatellitedishdecoratedwithbottlecapsandgun shells.PhotobyBetIson,2010.Right:Monthslater,ithangsasacarportforBetscar.

Furthermore,Cecilsartisticcollaborationwithhisfamilialcommunityis

everpresent.With30somefamilymembersinthearea,theIsonfamilyoftenplays hosttoniecesandnephewswhowillbecomeassistantforensic anthropomorphologistsfortheafternoon.Severaloftheiryoungrelativeshelpedto paintthecarvingsofchildrenontheupperbarn(seefigs.1415).

Figures1415.Left:Theupperbarnwithlifesizeflowersculpturemadefromscrapmaterials. Right:Cecilsnephewshelpedtopaintthechildrenontheupperbarn.

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Abuddinganthropomorphologistteststhe cheerleadingdolltoseeifshecontinuesto becheery.(Shedoes.)writesBetina photocaption(fig.16).Additionally,mostof theitemstheyusetocreateartaredragged in(fromthewoodsorthedump,etc.)by membersofCecilsfamily,suchasthe phonebooth,andthesatellitedishesusedin thepondandthebottlecapcarport. Finally,Cecilsartisticvisionand
Figure16.PhotobyBetIson.

aestheticisenhancedbyfriends,neighbors,tourists,andfansalike.Beteloquently communicatedthisinanemailaddressedtome,datedNovember3,2010: Artoccurshereasjustpartoftheday.Wedontscheduleit,itjust occurssometimesjustlikegardeningorputtingupthehayor quilting.Somethingsaredictatedbytheweatherorthegrowing season.(Youpickyourpepperswhentheyareripe;youchange mannequinclotheswhentheseasonchangesandwhenitiscool enoughsothatthewaspsarentasactive.)Ifsomeoneturnsupand wantsto(orcanbecoercedinto)gourddecorating,youspendthe timedoingit.Ifaneighborarriveswithaloadofbabydollsfroma rentalcleanout,youdealwiththem.Ifyouvegotextrapaint,you paintsomethingwithitmaybealargecatonthebarnroof. Thenthereisthetouristfactor.Withpublicityinregionalnewspapersanda

featurearticleina2007issueofGentlemansQuarterlymagazine,aswellasabit aboutthesiteonKansasCityPublicTelevisionsprogramRareVisionsandRoadside Revelations,CecilandBetregularlyreceivewhattheycalldrivebys,andthe occasionalfartravelerwhomakestheefforttoexittheircarandgetthefullstory andtourfromtheIsons.WhentheIsonspresenttheircuration,astheycallit,toa 15

newcomertheyenactanexotericpresentationwiththeircreatednarrativeand largelyfictional,spontaneousstories.Betstated,Weenjoythetouristsbecauseit givestheirlivesalittleadventure.Youknow,peopleslives[canbe]soboring. Whatsmore,outsiderparticipationfromfansofthesitecantakeonthe

socialdynamicandroleofapupilofIsonsasamemberofhisInternationalSociety forForensicAnthropomorphologybydonatinganthropomorphsandothersuch itemsmanyofwhicharriveattheIsonsmailboxcompletewiththeamateurs forensicanalysisonthedemiseof,andtraumato,theobject,astheyhavelearned theseboundsofparticipation,orplayfromCecilandotherfans(seefigs.1718). Similarly,whileIwasattheIsonshomeforaninterview,theyreceivedtwosizable packagesofbottlecapsfromfriendsforuseintheirart.Icaughtontothistradition andarrivedtowithacanofpaintforCecilandBet,whichIhadusedtopaintmy desk.Thisdoubledasagestureofgratitudefortheirtime.

Figures1718.ExamplesofanthropomorphdropoffsfromfriendsorfansoftheHomefor WaywardBabydolls.PhotosbyBetIson.

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Morerecently,theIsonshavetakenituponthemselvestocreateaFacebook

webpagefortheHomeforWaywardBabydolls(HWB).AsofSeptember2011,the pagehas136fanswhofurtherengagewiththeHWBcommunitybyposting anecdotesorphotosoftheirvisittothesite,ofCecilandBet,orofdecoratedgourds andotherworksmadebythemselvesandtheIsonsattheHWB.CecilandBethave usedthespacetopostrelevantdocuments,suchastheOfficialHWBFieldForm, whichoffersthewrittenprotocolforcorrectlysubmittingafoundanthropomorph, andtoanswerFrequentlyAskedQuestions,including:


So,DoyouReallyBelievethisisArt? Yes.No.Maybeitsscience.Idontreallycare. Whatdoyourneighborsthink? Allourneighborsarerelatives.TheythinkOhthatsjustCecil;hesalwaysbeenthat way.Theteenagersthinkthisissocool.Thechildrenlovetocomeandpaint.

AmongotherFAQswhichweavetheirwayinandoutofthecreatednarrative.

Figure19.A screenshotofthe HomeForWayward BabydollsInfopage onFacebook,2011.

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Finally,itisclearthatthecreativematerialendeavorsofCecilandBetIson

arethoroughlyinformedbylocalizedtradition.Thecollectionandcreativereuseof foundobjectsandrefuse,orwhatBetcalledjunking,assheexplained,isafamilial andregionalvaluethathasbeenpasseddowntoCecil,andisstillatraditional dynamicthatisencouragedandexhibitedamonghisextendedfamilyandneighbors alike.Inkeepingwiththiscommunityaesthetic,Cecilmentionedtomethattheonly supplyheeverbuystomakeartisusedpaint.InanemailfromBet,sheexplained: Someoftheitemsmadeandincludedherelikethebottlecapsnakes andthewhirlygigsarealsomadebyothers,andtheirmakingwas learnedfromeldersinthecommunity.Othersliketheobjectsmade fromroofingtinandsatellitedishesaresimplymadefromitemsnot availabletooureldersbutstillwithinthistradition.Domostpeoplein thisareahangupbabydollsontheirsheds?Notregularly.Dothey hangupotherobjectsfrequently.Butthen,wedonthangupmost oftheobjectsthattheyhangupeither. DuringoneinterviewwiththeIsons,Iengagedinparticipantobservation,as

IcraftedalongsideCecilandBetintheirsmokehouse.AsCecilflattenedbottlecaps withawoodblockandhammerandadornedawoodensnakeheadwithjewelryand sequinsforhisownbottlecapsnake,hecommentedonthetraditionalandlocal natureofthatitem:[AddieCornett,alocalfriend]showedmeasnakethathehad madeoutofbottlecaps,anditssoeasytowhittleoutasnakehead.[]Hehad madeonethathespraypaintedblack,anditinspiredmesinceitwassosimple.Bet responded,NowJerry[whoisCecilssistershusband]makesthemtoo.Hewasthe firstonetomakethe[smaller]snakeheads.Cecilwentontoexplaintheprocess: Doyouusedifferentkindsofbottlecapstocreatedifferentdesignson them,ordoyoujustspraypaintyourowndesignonitonceitsall done?Ordoyoujustmakeahodgepodge?Itdoesntmatter[]Most ofthemarejustleftouttoweatherontheirown,andtheybecome BrownSnakes.WehaveBrownSnakesaroundhere!Theywontbite 18

youitsjustagreatwaytousebottlecaps,whichwehaveaplethora of.

Figures2021.Left:Cecildisplaysasnakeheadheisembellishing.Right:Aweathered,or BrownSnakebottlecapsnakehangsoutsidethesmokehouse.

WhenIaskedCecilabouthisvariationtothistraditioninhisembellishmentsofthe snakes,withjewelrypieces,sequins,andbrightcolors,hesaid:Theylooksnazzier, andwhatsnakedoesntwanttolooksnazzyastheycruisearound!Youvegottogo steppingouteverynowandthen!Thebottlecapsnakeisjustoneexampleofthe waymanyofCecilandBetsseeminglyidiosyncraticcreationsareoftenlocallyand culturallycentered,downtothematerials,tools,andtechniqueofapieceor assemblage. CONCLUSION TheHomeforWaywardBabydollsis,andwillremainacomplexexpression

ofmaterialculture,withitspartneredoralnarrativethatcannotbeseparatedfrom thephysicalandvisualmanifestationsoftheartcreatedbyCecilandBetIson.Asa liminalvisitor/ethnographerlivingthreeandahalfhourssouthwestofRowan County,Iappliedmygrowinganddevelopingfolkloristicanalysistotheeveryday workoftheIsons,andtriedtonavigateappropriateandrelevantscholarly observations,whileworkingtoseparatemyowntendencytofallpreytoa 19

simplifiedgazeofthewildandwondroussooftenencounteredwithartthattakes thisform.Withthatsaid,Ifoundittobetruethataspiritofwondermentisatthe heartoftheexperienceattheHomeforWaywardBabydolls.Furthermore,that spiritofwondermentseemstoencapsulatetheartisticaestheticoftheIsonsthere isnothingparticularlyrunofthemillaboutagiantcatpaintedonthebarnroof,a lifesizesculptureofaflowermadewithscrapmaterials,orarowofadorned mannequins,eachwiththeirownnameandstory,lovinglyarrangedonawrap aroundporch.TheIsonsyardartenvironmentopenlyencouragesparticipationin wonder.

Figures2223.Left:BetdocumentsCecilsconsultationonafoundanthropomorph. Right:Cecildisplaysadropoff.

Lifecanbedifficult,andCecilandBethavecertainlyknowndifficultyand

painliketherestofus.WhileItakezerointerestinsensationalizingCecils experienceasaveteranoftheVietnamWar,Ialsodonotfeelcomfortableobscuring thefactthatCecildealswithPostTraumaticStressDisordernotanuncommon experienceforveteransofanywar.CertaintimesthatIspokeorcorrespondedwith theIsonsatlength,theWarorCecilssymptomscameup,butthematterwhich alwayscameup,withoutfail,istheoverarchingspoofofthefieldsofacademicand appliedarchaeologyandforensicanthropology.Bettoldmeonce,Cecilhasrarely 20

usedhisarttosayanythingaboutVietnam[]whatevertheartisabout,itsmostly aboutbeinganarchaeologistandknockingonauthority[academic,governmental, etc.].Itsapanofseriousness.(July16,2011).Thisspoofingofthedisciplineand practiceculminatedatthe2007KentuckyHeritageCouncilArchaeologyConference whereCecilandBetpresentedamockpaperontheirresearchattheHomefor WaywardBabydollsduringtheconferencesentertainmentsegment.AstheIsons arerespectedregularsamongtheKentuckyarchaeologyscene,nearlyalloftheir 200colleaguesinattendancewereinonthejokewhichmadeforasuccessfuland welcomesubversionofacademicprotocolandauthority.Indeed,thiseventand performanceimplyreferencetoand/oractualizationofBarbaraA.Babcockstheory ofsymbolicinversion,describedasanyactofexpressivebehaviorwhichinverts, contradicts,abrogates,or[...]presentsanalternativetocommonlyheldcultural codes.(Babcock1978)Insteadofmakingfurtherapproximationsaboutinfluence andmeaningintheimagesandnarrativesoftheIsonscreations,IlllettheIsons continuetodothetalking,andIencourageinterestedreaderstovisitandspeak withthemabouttheircreationsinpersonorincorrespondence.Ifindthat analyticalinterpretationoftheIsonscreativelifeisbutoneofmanyfacetsin experiencingtheirbejeweledandbottlecappedworld.Asanantidotetoobscurity, Ivetakenaholistic,collaborative,andhighlycontextualapproachtodocumenting andpresentingtheircreativelifeasIencounteredit.

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Figure24.CecilandBetshowmearoundtheirpropertyinthefallof2010.

Betsaidonce,IvedecidedthecluetoCecilisthathejustreallylikestomake

peoplehappy.DrivingtheTrollTruckaround[atruckthatCeciladornedwithtroll dolls],andjustseeingthelookonpeoplesfacesmostpeoplewentfromthelookof absoluteshockintoreallybigsmiles.ThisleadsmetoconsiderthatCecil(andBet) challengeperceivedorpreconceivedidentitiesbysimplysurprisingoutsiderswith theplaintruth.TheIsonsliveinarurallandscapebutarefarfromisolatedwith theirextensiveandcloseknitfamilialandregionalcommunity.Cecillivesinthe samesmallvillagehewasbornin,andinthehousehisgrandparentsowned,buthe andBetareincrediblywelltraveledandhighlyeducated.Cecilmayhavebeen perceivedasanaveartistbysome,butbothCecilandBetholdadeep consciousnessandappreciationconcerningtheshiftingworldsoffolkandfine art,andareactivelyengagedincommunityartsbeyondtheirhome.Andfinally, CecilexperiencedtraumaintheVietnamWar,butherefusestoplayvictimtothe harshnessofwar,andis,infact,fulloflifeandunboundedcreativity.

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WiththefolkartoftheIsons,contextasitiswitheverythingiskey.Inthis

paper,Ihaveonlybreachedtheextentofinsightthattheethnographiclensanda deepconsiderationofthecontextualelementsoftheartandartist(s)themselves canprovideasaninformativeinterpretationfortheHomeforWaywardBabydolls. Aswiththenatureoffolkloristics,aconstantlyshiftingandgrowingdiscipline,the material,oral,andcustomarycultureandcreationsoftheIsons,arealsofarfrom static.AsMichaelOwenJonesnotes,socalledselftaughtpaintersandsculptors maybemoretraditionalthanmostarthistoriansandconnoisseursassume,and lessidiosyncraticthanmanyfolkloristssuppose.(Jones2001:60)Thebricolageof CecilandBetIsonwillcontinuetodevelopandcultivatetheinformal,the communal,andthelocalinthefolktraditionsthattheybearorcreate,andpasson toliminalvisitorsandcloserelativesalike.Mybottlecapcollectingwillneverbe thesame.

Figure25.TheauthorsownIsonstylecreationmadeinthefallof2010,initscurrenthabitat neartheIsonsfrontporch,summer2011.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Babcock,BarbaraA.1978.Introduction.InTheReversibleWorld:Symbolic InversioninArtandSociety,ed.BarbaraA.Babcock.Ithaca:Cornell UniversityPress. Dobie,Kathy.TheLongShadowofWar.GentlemansQuarterly,December,2007, accessedOct.19,2010,http://www.gq.com/newspolitics/big issues/200712/cecilisonvietnamsoldier. Dorst,John.1999.MachinesandGardens:TwoCasesofVernacularDisplay.In LookingWest.Philadelphia:UniversityofPennsylvaniaPress. Facebook.HomeforWaywardBabydolls.LastmodifiedSeptember20,2011. http://www.facebook.com/HomeForWaywardBabydolls Glassie,Henry.1975.FolkHousinginMiddleVirginia.Knoxville:Universityof TennesseePress. Jones,MichaelOwen.2001.TheAestheticsofEverydayLife.InSelfTaughtArt,ed. CharlesRussell,pp.4760.Jackson:UniversityofMississippiPress _________.1994.HowDoYouGetInsidetheArtofOutsiders?.InTheArtistOutsider: CreativityandtheBoundariesofCulture,ed.MichaelD.HallandEugeneW. Metcalf,Jr.,pp.312331.WashingtonandLondon:SmithsonianInstitution Press. Metcalf,Jr.,EugeneW.,1994.FromDominationtoDesire:InsidersandOutsiderArt. InTheArtistOutsider:CreativityandtheBoundariesofCulture,ed.MichaelD. HallandEugeneW.Metcalf,Jr.,pp.312331.WashingtonandLondon: SmithsonianInstitutionPress Oring,Elliott.1992.JokesandTheirRelations.Lexington:UniversityPressof Kentucky. Swain,Adrian.1990.LocalVisions:FolkArtfromNortheastKentucky.Morehead: MoreheadStateUniversity. Thomas,JeanneBanks.2003.NakedBarbies,WarriorJoes,andOtherFormsofVisible Gender.UrbanaandChicago:UniversityofIllinoisPress. Toelken,Barre.1996.TheDynamicsofFolklore.Logan:UtahStateUniversityPress. ZugIII,CharlesG.,1994.FolkArtandOutsiderArt:AFolkloristsPerspective.InThe ArtistOutsider:CreativityandtheBoundariesofCulture,ed.MichaelD.Hall andEugeneW.Metcalf,Jr.,pp.144161.WashingtonandLondon: SmithsonianInstitutionPress. 24

RECOMMENDEDREADING/VIEWING/LISTENING DetourArt.ArtistDetail:CecilIson.LastmodifiedDecember14,2006. http://detour.webdatabases.net/artist_detail.html?ArtistID=10194&Ar tID=1 0194 Ison,Bet.HomeforWaywardBabydolls.HomeforWaywardBabydollsFlickr Photostream,2010,accessedNovember25,2010, http://www.flickr.com/photos/home_for_wayward_babydolls/. Jameson,Jennifer.HomeforWaywardBabydolls.RoseHipsFlickrPhotostream, 2010,accessedNovember25,2010, http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosehips/sets/72157625269651842/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosehips/sets/72157625297356247/. RareVisionsandRoadsideRevelations.2002.EasternWeaseling.KCPT,KansasCity PublicTelevision. Stephenson,David.ArtYard.LexingtonHeraldLeader,July1,2006,accessed October19,2010,http://www.heraldleaderphoto.com/ multimedia/cecil/ison.html. Swain,Adrian.2001.TheHomeforWaywardBabydolls.Paperpresentedatthe annualconferenceoftheAppalachianStudiesAssociation,Pocahontas County,WestVirginia,March30April1,2001.

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