Facejug Reception at American Folk Art

by D. Lanier Shook                                April 12, 2019

One great thing about Asheville is the confluence of art and artists that allow us to discover art forms old and new. Asheville is where all this comes together, giving us the opportunity to conveniently explore these without going too far. You may have never heard of face jugs, but American Folk Art and Framing has provided the opportunity to explore this genre of pottery without traveling far and wide.

You’ve probably driven right by their studio on 64 Biltmore Avenue, but never stopped. Well, here’s your excuse to explore all the awesome things Betsey and Morgan have chosen to display. I was not aware that every first Friday they hold a reception, but last week I found out and promptly took the opportunity to visit. They made me and their other guests feel right at home, providing an entertaining and very educational experience.

Face jugs are a unique art form, with roots in both the mountains and all the way in Africa. Traditionally the strange art on the jugs were intended to scare children from drinking moonshine that was in them. Click here to visit the American Folk Art and Framing website where you can see some of the examples they have on display and you’ll see that no little kid in their right mind would go anywhere near these. (And many adults, too!)

The jugs in the show were impressive for a couple of reasons. First of all, every one of them displayed workmanship demonstrating the experience of their maker. Second, each artisan added their own style to their work. The styles range from very Folk Art to more Modern Art to whimsical. There were several jugs with snakes on them — two of which looked very real. One jug was painted with the story of the first two famous Siamese twins, who retired to North Carolina. Another looked like a little kitty cat. Two had little bears climbing up their side.

The gallery itself is a treasure to visit. I probably spent as much time looking over the other selections as I did enjoying the face jugs. The talent there is too great to be listed here but I have to mention three artists in particular.

Michael Banks creates a form of realism that just feels effortless — he has gotten his 3D feel down cold. Tres Taylor creates bold art that utilizes etching and acrylic paint to create new art that feels old — you gotta see it to understand what I mean. Finally I’ve got to mention Liz Sullivan whose control and technique are stunning. Betsey told me Liz actually rubs down her paintings with wax once she’s finished. (I can understand this. The pigment in acrylic can feel overwhelming at times. I’ve tried to use it in washes, but I can see how a wax coating could mellow it.)

Hopefully this article has given you a feel for why American Folk Art and Framing is worth visit. They’re located literally across the street from The Aloft Hotel which has a public parking deck below it. Click here to visit their website and find out more. And say hi to Betsey and Morgan for me!

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