The Beer Can House, Houston

There is something about folk art that I unexplainably feel drawn to try and understand. Folk art being art that is utilitarian in construct, usually thought of as separate from the traditions of fine art technique. I have recently come to the conclusion that there is a narrative in some folk art that I inevitably miss. I appreciate subversive messages that are clever and witty or filled with tongue in cheek puns. Admittedly as a whole, I don’t know that I have wet my palate with enough of the folk style to catch all of the intended messages that I imagine scholars of the style could debate. But sometimes, even the simplest of pieces are my favorite to see.

I spend quite a bit of time in my head; sometimes when I am alone, sometimes when I am in a crowd of people. I have recently been reminded that when in the deepest of throws of thought, I can develop what has been dubbed “resting bitch face”. From what I gather, said face on me looks sad or at times angry to others. I don’t carry around a plastered grin across my face, nor do I believe that a singular emotion solves all of life’s problems. However, I assure you that a good 95% of the time, if you are to catch me in my head with rbf look on my face, I am just thinking.

I’ve heard that time heals all and in 2020, I am really delving into what that can look like. It occurred to me, in one of these deep thought moments, where I have come from in settling in from being so reactive in my twenties. I think we are all trying to figure out how to get along with/in life but that there are a multitude of paths to do so. And there are plenty of self-help titles, but if I am honest, I usually require learning things by personal trial and error. Losing the reactive approach has allowed me to be more intentional in my responses. More able to make time for the people and things that I appreciate in my life. More aligned with peace than panic.

After I typed up the previous paragraph, I was really proud of myself. And then someone blatantly cut me off at the gas station on my lunch break. I called out the action as we both got out of our respective vehicles to fill up and it was humbling to realize I still have work to do on that peace part some days. It’s not just time that heals, but focused effort to change on the part of the person. Still, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Some of the most identifiable folk art pieces that I enjoy come from artists who are just plainly passionate about something. They tag in their own styles and mediums to remember or appreciate the source of their passion. They create reminders and cast tributes to the source of what brings them a little taste of joy. I don’t think it is idolatry more than affection and a desire to share some of that ethos with others.

One of Houston’s most fascinating attractions arrives as the brain child of John Milkovisch, who was an upholsterer for Southern Pacific Railroad, who decorated his home at 222 Malone with beer cans, bottles and paraphernalia for 20 years starting in 1968. He emptied over 50,000 cans of his favorite brews, and used the materials to adorn both his home and workshop in creative works. Crushed cans, flattened cans, stacked cans, beer can top and tab garland. The difference in texture and shape from a singular item is absolutely inspiring. Maybe my fascination is that Milkovisch was able to look past tradition and precedent of the way that materials be viewed, instead opting among Houston’s zoning free standards to create and share.

If sharing of ethos from creations that bring joy and memory is the way that I am defining folk art, I suppose that I might even qualify for said consideration with the blog. I have never really concretely defined what it is that I do in terms of art outside of identifying as a mixed media illustrator and storyteller. But Mixed Media Folk Artist has a specific ring to it that, if used, I hope that I can live up to the title.

The track this week is from Tom T. Hall, and was almost scrapped for Miles Davis’ “A Few Of My Favorite Things”. But Hall delivers his ode to his beverage of choice in “I Like Beer”. Whether by price point or personal taste preference, the selection of sundries is clearly presented by Hall on this straightforward single. Like folk art, I don’t understand all of the passion that some folks have for certain selections of beer. Admittedly, I am not the most knowledgable or experienced, but I have a general idea of what works for me. Similarly; if crafting (alcohol or folk art) isn’t hurting anyone else, can be responsibly administered and isn’t illegal: go right ahead. Follow that passion. Find your voice. And, maybe that leads to staying out of our own heads (and sometimes out of our own paths) to create something identifiable and joyful to share.

The Beer Can House is Open Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5, weather permitting. Admission is $5/person, kids 12 and under are free. Group tours can be arranged and you “can” find more information about the attraction at The Beer Can House Website.

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