THIS ESSAY HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE SEPTEMBER 2016 ISSUE OF ACES MAGAZINE
Tina Folks is a Patchogue-based fine artist who works in ceramics and public art projects. Inspired by primitive art, along with her fascination for rituals that honor the natural world, Folks’ art is an expression of spiritual growth and the interconnected energies between Mother Earth and her inhabitants. Folks’ artwork incorporates the ideas from various civilizations that emphasize the importance of personal growth, spiritual awakening, and community togetherness.
Working in red clay, Folks sculpts pedestal-based Animal Totems and Kachina Dolls that are inspired by the sculptures of primal and indigenous cultures. Each sculpture is unique and has personal significance to the artist. In her totems, the Reptilian Totems, the crocodile represents the artist’s personal spiritual animal, which in many cultures signifies the primal energies of birth and initiation. Her Kachina Dolls are inspired by the kachina dolls of the Arizona-based, Native American Hopi tribe, which represent different spiritual entities that are believed to be present in all living being. Folks creates ceramic sculptures that fuse animal with man, which are then decorated with inventive color palettes and fabric textures of the artist’s own design. Her figures encourage the viewer to contemplate on the indigenous culture’s rich history as well as his or her own relationship with the natural world and those that occupy it.
Due to working as a solitary artist in the confines of her studio, Folks felt the need to become involved in something that was larger than her. Since the turn of the century, she has been engaged in multiple community projects that promote pride as well as personal and communal growth within one’s environment. Some of her earliest community projects include the 2000 The Community Wall Mosaic completed in conjunction with the East End Arts Council in Riverhead and 2002 9-11 Memorial Mosaic held at the Westhampton Beach Middle School. Through the East End Arts’ JumpstART program, Folks initiated the WE ARE ALL CONNECTED experiential fire ceremony. The ceremony incorporated 4 ceramic totem sculptures that acted as ‘spirit keepers.’ Each sculpture was placed alongside a circle, like points on a compass, alongside a circle, of which the public were invited to occupy. The circle symbolized the infinite cycle of life and the artist highlighted the connection that one has with his or her own spirit as well as one another by having the public stand alongside its parameter. The multi-media event included a drum circle and fire ceremony where the public was invited to write down their betterments for themselves and the community onto a piece of paper that they could then throw into the fire. Folks later brought her WE ARE ALL CONNECTED fire ceremony to her hometown of Patchogue in the fall of 2014 during the village’s PAC MAC Festival.
Currently, Folks is collaborating with Gallery North on their MAKE YOUR MARK community garden wall project. The initiative invites children, adults, families, and professional artists together to decorate their own 6-inch stoneware tiles that will be permanently installed on the grounds of Gallery North. The next MAKE YOUR MARK workshop with the artist will be held at the Community Art Center of Gallery North on September 10th and 11th from 10 – 5PM, as part of the organization’s annual Out Door Art Show. Tiles cost $100 to decorate and install on the garden wall or $50 to decorate and take home. Proceeds from the fundraiser will help expand the arts programming of Gallery North.
Tina Folks is a fine artist who lives and works in Patchogue, NY. She received a BA from Marrymount College in Tarrytown, NY and a BFA from Parson School of Design in New York City. She is the Owner and Co-Founder of Fee-Fi-Faux, Inc., a decorative painting, handmade tile and wallpaper business, alongside her husband Bryan Gutman. She has served on the Board of Directors of East Ends Arts from 2010 – 2014 and was a mentor to the East End Arts’ JumpstART program in 2015. Currently, Folks is an active member of the Art League of Long Island and the Patchogue Arts Council.
Photographs of MAKE YOUR MARK Workshop © Miranda Gatewood Photography
All images courtesy of the artist