Tag Archives: folk art

Warli Paintings

Background provided by MN: MN is an individual who grew up in the Maharashtra state of India, where they learned 4 languages including Sanskrit. They recently moved to America for further education. 

Context:  As we were talking about different types of folklore, MN shared this information about this particular Indian tribal art that originated from their state in India. 

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information): 

MN: “Warli paintings are also from where I am from, Maharashtra. There is a mountain range in Maharashtra called sayandrit (spelled Sahyadri) and it … originated there. And it is tribal art. Like tribes, there used to make this art and I think … there’s prehistoric caves … umm … like huge … huge prehistoric caves, the most significant of them are arjenda (proceeds to spell A-j-a-n-t-a and E-l-l-o-r-a) and alura I think they are UNESCO historic sites and they have … like … they’re approximately 2 BCE. They have this temple (gestures towards photo on UNESCO website) … it’s almost like a Buddhist temple … and they have closed entry there now … because it was a tourist location where you can see the paintings and stuff. And if you look online you can still see the color and stuff. It has these … like geometric shapes … this is like the feature of it. Almost like what kids draw, but there is a lot of imagery of the sun … and people dancing. In most of the Warli paintings, you will see the sun … and people dancing in a circle. It is kind of … a design choice.”

Me: “I kinda have a couple follow-up questions about the paintings with the Warli paintings. Like did you have a favorite … or like did you ever … like … interact with one … that kinda changed  the way you see things?”

MN: “ Ummm … not really, this is not really … uhh .. it’s a very abstract design. It’s not the same everywhere. Uhhh … it’s not like a particular painting or anything .. just specific features of this painting. It’s a … type of painting … I’d say… a stylistic choice.  So there’s not a particular one that I… but I do remember a restaurant having one mural … it was all the whole wall. 

Analysis: This type of folk art that MN had informed me about was very interesting because it first belonged to a very niche group, but transitioned to a UNESCO world heritage site. MN provides their unique perspective as a local emphasizes that Warli paintings are an art style that has since transformed and integrated into contemporary times. The motifs in the Warli art style continue to be adapted in the contemporary pieces, as MN mentions. The Warli paintings are connected largely to the Buddhist belief system and this connection could explain its prevalence in modern art. MN explained that the most common motifs are the Sun and the dancing people, which are very telling of a culture that values warmth and community. The Sun is often associated with masculinity, warmth, and energy. The geometric people suggest that modern Indian society is heavily influenced by dance.

MN recounted that Ajanta was once a tourist attraction, but later, UNESCO protected the cave to preserve India’s art history. After it turned into a UNESCO site Ajanta was no longer to be enjoyed by the general public and access was restricted. The Warli paintings are folk art that can no longer be enjoyed in person, which could have hurt the local economy. Tourism is the largest market and when UNESCO protected Ajanta, it also destroyed tourism. The locals were no longer able to visit the site either. This restriction could also explain the prevalence of Warli painting motifs in more contemporary pieces, such as decor in a restaurant as MN mentioned.

For more information about Ajanta, as well as visuals please visit the UNESCO website: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/242.

Masks As Folk Art

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as CC.

Me: How have you been covering your face in public places due to the coronavirus?

CC: I just made a mask out of a bandana and two hair ties because I couldn’t get any other pre-made masks in time. 

Me: How did you do that and how effective is it?

CC: Well, it’s super easy and stays in place nicely so I don’t have to touch my face when I’m out and about. So, yeah, I’d say it’s effective.

Me: And how do you make it?

CC: Oh yeah, ok so basically you just lay the bandana out and then fold it a few times so it’s a long rectangle. Then you like put the hair ties around either end and move them towards the middle until as big as you want the mask to be. And then you just fold over the edges, I try to like fold one edge into the other so it doesn’t come loose but it’s kinda hard to get that part right. And then you just put it on with the hair ties around your ears and adjust if you want it bigger or smaller. I can send a step-by-step pics if you need help.

Me: Yeah that’d be great, thanks! And where did you get this idea?

CC: Not gonna lie, I saw some facebook post about it and copied it but honestly it’s kinda become a viral life-hack! 

Me: Cool, thanks.


Interviewee is a long-time friend of mine who attends a school on the East Coast. She is an American who grew up in Las Vegas, NV. 


This piece of folklore was collected during a video call between me and interviewee during the Coronavirus Pandemic. I have known the interviewee for many years, so the conversation was casual. 


I have seen many youtube videos and facebook posts about this method of making a mask quickly and without sewing for those who don’t know how to sew or don’t want to. I’ve tried it and I think it works pretty well, too. Going around to the grocery store and such, I see quite a few people using this method of making a mask, and because there are so many kinds of fabrics you can make it with, people get really creative and you can show more of your personal style than with a classic paper mask. 

To see how she makes this mask and with what kind of cloth, see this: https://www.allure.com/gallery/bandana-face-masks-covid-19-coronavirus

Friendship Bracelets as Folk Art

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my informant (AT). 

AT: When I think friendship bracelets, I think of taking strands of embroidery floss, and you knot or braid them in these different patterns, and then when they’re like fully woven, you give them to your friends. The whole idea is you and your friends either make matching ones and swap them, or you can make different ones for each other. Part of the fun in that is picking the colors or patterns you think they’d like. 

LT: But either way you have to make them, and they have to be for the other person, right? 

AT: Yeah, you’re not supposed to make them for yourself… I mean maybe you can? Everyone I know always made them for other people… and honestly I’m sure you can buy them off Etsy or something, but the whole fun in it is the actual process of making them. 


AT is a 23-year-old female from Los Angeles. She first learned how to make friendship bracelets at a summer camp when she was six years old. Her favorite thing about making friendship bracelets growing up was exchanging them: “I loved how excited my friends would get when I gave them theirs, and I’d always feel really special when they’d give me mine… it was a way we could physically prove to each other that we liked each other I guess.” 


AT is one of my relatives with whom I’m quarantining. This piece was collected in our living room as we were sitting on the couch. 


American female friendships are often depicted in the media as being “catty” or fake, but I think that friendship bracelets show how pure they can be in real life. Having gone to an all girls high school, some of my strongest, most loyal relationships are the ones I have with my female friends. In the context of friendship bracelets, girls take it upon themselves at such a young age to learn special patterns and spend time making them for their friends. I still cherish having that experience with mine. When we all wore the same friendship bracelets, it felt like we were all wearing the same jersey, and we were on the same team. These bracelets are generally made by little girls who might not be eloquent enough to express their emotions accurately, and friendship bracelets are a beautiful way to nonverbally show your friends how much you care, knowing that they’ll understand and likely reciprocate. 

Yearbooks as Folk Art

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my informant (MS). 

MS: So, a yearbook is traditionally issued at the end of the school year when you’re in elementary school through high school… and they have pictures of everyone in the school taken throughout the year… and you’ll usually write messages in your friends’ books.

LT: But not all messages are equal (laughs). 

MS: Yeah, like in elementary school, everyone just wrote their names because we didn’t know how to write many things, but generally, in high school, it’s bad to just write “HAGS,” which means have a good summer… you want to write something more heartfelt because people often keep yearbooks and will want to be able to reminisce on memories and stuff in the future, so you need good messages. If someone writes “HAGS,” they probably don’t know you that well. 


MS is one of my best friends, and she grew up in Los Angeles. She got her first yearbook when she was six years old, at the end of Kindergarten. She often jokes that she’s a “hoarder” because she keeps a lot of things for their sentimental value, including yearbooks. She actually just read through all of her old yearbooks the night before our interview since she “wasn’t doing anything better during quarantine.” Her favorite thing about yearbooks is reading the messages. She likes to think about who she’s still friends with and who she doesn’t stay in touch with. She also likes the messages that remind her of memories she wouldn’t have thought of on her own. 


MS and I normally see each other most days at USC, and we’ve been continuing to FaceTime often during this quarantine period. This piece was collected during a “Zoom Happy Hour” with our friend group. 


In American culture, we often stress the importance of being “cool in high school.” Media often promotes the idea that an American teen’s self worth can be measured in how many friends they have. Yearbooks are a physical way we can quanitize that. I remember reading through my mom’s old yearbooks as a child, and I was so impressed by how many people had signed it. When I was in high school, I would actually get stressed and feel pressured to make sure every blank page in my book was covered with signatures. Now, as a college student, I don’t even know where most of my yearbooks are. In MS’s case, it’s nice to reminisce about the memories with dear, old friends. However, she doesn’t particularly care about the messages written by people she wasn’t close to. Yearbooks symbolize the things that felt so important as a teenager that don’t particularly matter later in life. Inherently, yearbooks are a really sweet tradition that should be treated more authentically. 

Rock Painting in San Clemente, CA

Subject: San Clemente, CA- Rock Painting



San Clemente Rock Close-Up of backside. This maker fully embraced the pun- 30 March 2018


San Clemente Rock Close- Up of frontside.


San Clemente Rock on San Clemente Trail in found position- 30 March 2018


Close up photograph of San Clemente Rock in found position- 30 March 2018


San Clemente Rock in new position. Moved by S. Taylor. 30 March 2018



Background Info: San Clemente, CA is the southernmost city of Orange County and consists of such beaches as Trestles, North Beach, T-Street, and Old Man’s Beach. The town motto is the Spanish Village by the Sea. Most of the city’s life revolves around the beach as the town’s main street, Del Mar, runs from El Camino Real to the pier. I have lived in San Clemente up until I moved to Los Angeles for college and return during the summer and winter holidays.

In January of 2017 an official city-wide club was formed to paint rocks to commemorate the life of Saylor Vorris, a junior at San Clemente High School when she passed away from leukemia. This movement was largely isolated to the Vorris family’s immediate acquaintances and the student body at San Clemente High. Members of the larger San Clemente population began to take notice of the rocks appearing at significant location in the north end of town. Then, in early 2018, painted rocks began appearing on beaches and walk paths in the North end of San Clemente in incomprehensible numbers. People who were not part of the original club nor aware of the significance began painting rocks and hiding them around town. The premise is then simple: if you find a rock, you can take it or simply move it to a new location. For many participants, if you take a rock it is then your responsibility to paint a new rock a place it around town.

Context: I encountered the San Clemente Rocks when walking on the beach trail in San Clemente on 30 March 2018. My dad explained that the rocks were first placed by members of the San Clemente ROCKS organization but now more and more people from town are painting rocks and putting them around town to spread joy. I photographed and then moved the rock with “Love” written across it. I, however, kept the rock with “San Clemente Rocks” written on it as a reminder of home when I went back to school.

Analysis: The rocks movement being adopted by more and more members of the community shows the active formation and reinforcing of identity. First, every time an individual makes a rock or moves one of the stones as part of the game, they are demonstrating through their behavior that they belong to the city of San Clemente. More than that, they are proud to be from San Clemente and want to publicly contribute to a culture of love, acceptance, and joy. The rocks work to actively define how citizens want to depict San Clemente to outsiders and allow them to fulfill that vision for themselves. With each rock that is painted, the idea of San Clemente as a community that cares about its residents is better realized and this identity is then embodied.

Second, to the San Clemente resident who is not participating in the rocks movement, they are the recipients of the joy that the painters are attempting to foster. The rocks serve as a reminder of what it means to call San Clemente home. As rocks are anonymous, it fosters an understanding that all residents are tied to one another on virtue of being from the specific place and participating in the culture of a small, beach town.

Lastly, I ask myself: “why rocks”. I believe the answer more complicated than rocks are easy to paint and do not prove an obstruction to the natural environment. Most people who live in San Clemente are anti-development and anti-graffiti but pro-environment. Painting rocks is a seemingly benign way of making a mark on the community in an artistic way, with minimal destruction. Furthermore, San Clemente has seen a significant natural depletion of its beaches sand in the last decade, being replaced primarily by small rocks. By painting rocks, town members are taking control of our land and tying us to the natural environment. Painters and spectators alike are asserting a belonging to the land that transcends merely living and going to work in within town lines, we are thrusting ourselves into the composition of the environment.