TroyFest’s Cook paints ‘from the heart’
Published 9:04 pm Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Ask Maurice Cook what kind of art he does and he can’t say.
“But I can tell you this. I’m honored to be mentioned as a folk artist,” Cook said. “Folk art comes from the heart and that’s the way I paint, from the heart.”
Cook is one of six or more folk artist who will be celebrated for their artwork at TroyFest on the square in downtown Troy April 26 and 27.
TroyFest was originally called the Jean Lake Arts & Crafts Show in honor of Troy native Jean Lake, a highly acclaimed folk artist. Each year, TroyFest spotlights the folk arts in recognition of the late artist and her contributions to the primitive arts.
Cook stands humbly in that spotlight.
His popularity among folk art enthusiasts is widespread and his work is much sought after at TroyFest.
But Cook’s artwork has not always been in great demand. When he started painting 30 years ago with hopes of “cashing in” with his artwork, he was not satisfied with what he put on canvas.
“I started painting flowers and portraits and I was never satisfied with the outcome,” Cook said. “So, I started painting from scratch. I didn’t look a pictures or anything. I just painted what I knew and it was easy. I didn’t have to dot the I’s or cross the T’s; whatever I got was what I got. These days, folks appreciate that kind of art. It’s art for the folks. It’s fun and happy art.”
Cook said that if you’ve ever been to a fine arts show, people are walking around with their noses in the air, “all snooty like.”
“But you go to a folk arts show and people are laughing and smiling,” Cook said. “And it’s always noisy because there’s always something going on at a folk arts show. Folk art is for folks. It’s as simple as that.”
Cook said he’s never at a loss for subjects for his artwork. Everything he paints is a memory from his past.
“I could paint a whole year from one day in my life as a young man,” he said. “We might go fishing in the morning, then go swimming and then play baseball in the pasture. We had work to do, too, but, when we played, we played hard.”
Cook said folk art is simply telling the stories of one’s life.
“Everybody in a small town is a character,” he said. “Everybody has a place and, when they’re not there, they are missed – good, bad or indifferent.”
And folk art? Everybody can do it, Cook said.
“You can start at nine or at ninety,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. You just express yourself as best you can. Everything is art. Andy Warhol painted toilet seats and called it art. Art is what you want it to be. I want my art to be me. I’m honored to be called a folk artist. It’s folk art but most of all its ‘my art.’ Art has been my way into everything that I need. What more can I say.”