“That was my father’s personal thing, but my husband says it too because he learned it from my father. It has to no just be a lot of paint, it has to be a lot of paint on a painting that is terrible, like you’re looking for something halfway okay to say about it.
“Well, and also, I think it is sort of like part of a larger tradition, which is when you go to someone’s exhibit, you have to say something, and you can’t say anything terrible, right? So, the other thing that you would say was that it was ‘interesting.’
“I think ‘that’s a lot of paint’ is pretty condescending.
“That was a tradition, right? The variety of—like, if you went to an exhibit and the artist was there, it was usually someone you knew, and you had to say something to them. And that was a totally different experience than when artists would invite each other to their studios—or invite gallery owners or critics to their studios—to view their work. And in that context, you would have to have a much more serious conversation. You couldn’t then get away with saying ‘that’s interesting’ or ‘that’s a lot of paint.’ So there were, like, rules for behavior in the art world, I would say. Those would definitely fit as rules for behavior in the art world.”
This informant was unable or unwilling to recognize any folklore of her own, but was ready to share when I asked about lore for the group of Jewish artists in New York City to which her parents belonged. This example contains not just a specific piece of folk speech, but this one piece carries with the context of a set of important customs that governed how these artists interacted with each other. It it, we see how certain aspects of folklife beget new folklore that works around its limitations.