Steve White is a folk hero. Or at least he’s a hero of folk art. His Summer shows at his studio and home—aka the Folk Farm—have been a big hit with collectors of inexpensive and kooky pop-culturally inspired artwork for a decade.
Much of that inspiration comes from late Southern artist and friend Howard Finster. He created his own folk museum / home in Summerville, Ga., in the early '60s and eventually started the popular, still-running Finster Festival.
White says the Folk Farm came a few years after meeting Finster in 1996. "I just liked that idea of making it free for the artist, no strings attached," says White. "I don't take any money from them going in or coming out."
Now, after 10-plus years of warm-weather events, White is throwing his first-ever holiday-themed Folk Farm Gift Show.
For those unfamiliar with White, he is to Pez dispensers what Andy Warhol is to Campbell's soup. Over the years, the self-proclaimed "pop-folk artist" has refurbished thousands of them, using acrylic paint, collected doll parts and whatever miscellany the augmentation requires. Recently, he's been working on some for the holiday show, using fairy tales for inspiration. A Snow White dispenser has been given a sparkly red-and-green boob job, and she's flanked by two Bashful dwarves, transformed into lustful Christmas elves. "They're not so bashful now," White says. (He calls his busty Cinderella "Mary Triple-X Mas.")
While White is known for his Pez creations—which are sold mainly out of Todos Santos Chocolates & Confections in Santa Fe—the work at his holiday show will come more in the form of whimsical ornaments. In addition to hangable wrestlers, pickup trucks and Smokey the Bears, White describes one of his creations as "half your toe—like on your foot—and half missile. So it's a missile toe."
Jeff Sipe is one of a handful of artists participating in the event. He and White first met when they were neighbors in the International District about 10 years ago. Bound by a mutual devotion to things folky and iconic, White took Sipe down to Georgia to see Finster's festival. Sipe has been a mainstay in Folk Farm shows ever since, and he has high praise for White. "He's just one of the coolest artists in Albuquerque," Sipe says. "He's gonna be a legend. He's already a legend with a lot of people. But he's gonna be a legendary figure in the history of art."
Sipe has been a musician most of his life and bases his work on blues, rock and jazz legends. His portraits of the likes of Billie Holiday and Muddy Waters are mostly acrylic or house paint on wood board, finished with oil. He says he also finds influence in the mixed-media work of Mexican artist Alberto Gironella; Sipe transforms pieces of tin cans into neckties and adornments in his portraits. "I was always cooking a lot with that [El] Pato tomato sauce," he says, "and those cans are just too beautiful to throw away, so I started cutting them up and putting them in the paintings." Sipe is also working on some ornaments for the show. "I'm thinking of doing some soul Santas and some Day of the Dead Santa things."
Also purveying some Día de los Muertos art is Folk Farm newbie Lindsey Taylor-Wise Kluthe. She met White while serving him beer at Il Vicino. After learning they both sell work at Nob Hill's Masks y Más, White invited her to be part of the show. Her wearable pieces are skulls painted onto oven-baked clay ovals. The Mesilla artist says a Catholic upbringing and a loss in her family influenced the pendants she affixes to earrings, barrettes and pin clasps. “They're not quite Christmasy,” she says, “but as Christmasy as I get.”
Other artists at the Gift Show include Leo Neufeld—doing quick sketch portraits as opposed to the intensive oil works he’s known for—and Clay Sheff. There’s also music from Frank McCulloch and Melody, and Nick Skouras belting out jazzy Christmas tunes on his Les Paul.
Despite some of the more risqué pieces, White says it's a show for the whole family. "Bring your camera. Santa Claus is gonna be here from 2 to 2:30. You can take a picture for free and then go home and make you a Christmas card." Just another reason to bring all the folks.