The Barbed Wire Muse of Allen Hendershott Eaton
By the second World War, distinctions between folk art and historical artifact were fluid. Duchamp declared a urinal to be art—the folk art crowd staked out quilts and duck decoys. There was commercial and intellectual pressure to identify and present new types of objects as art. Most of what was called folk art had been made in the Northeast, within a stone's throw of the summer homes of antiquing Yankees.
In his writings, Eaton liked to quote William Morris: "Art is the Expression of Man's Joy in Work." The flip side of that is the Auschwitz motto: "Work Sets You Free." It was in America's concentration camps that Eaton struck gold.
Barracks were cookie-cutter indistinguishable, like a nightmare premonition of postwar suburbia. Homemade signs distinguished one residence from another.
A New York Times article alerted Yoshinori Himel of Sacramento, who recognized a photograph of his mother among the auction lots. Himel started a Facebook page to prevent the collection's dispersal. Actor and social net celeb George Takai launched a campaign to acquire the Eaton collection for JANM and assisted in the negotiations. JANM bought the 450--piece collection in a private deal.
via hi-res photos on JANM's Flickr. In many cases makers and histories are unknown. The museum is asking viewers to supply information on any objects they recognize.
"Lil' Neebo" was a cartoon character of an interned boy, featured in the Granada camp (Colorado) newspaper and in puppet shows. He was created by Chris Ishii, a Chouinard-trained Disney animator who later directed the Snow White sequence in Annie Hall. (Another toon fact: Iwao Takamoto, also an interned Disney animator, later went on to draw Scooby-Doo.)
A large set of watercolors are split between post-card size views of the dark side of the American Scene, and larger ink paintings of bamboo, fish, and calligraphy owing nothing to America and the modern century it rode in on.
the Eameses' House Bird, c. 1910 Appalachia.) The bird pins were carved and painted after illustrations in National Geographic magazine. The feet were wire, made from unraveled window screens. One pin, of an American eagle, hints at how conflicted loyalties were.