Helen Hajnoczky

Beyond the (fl)oral tradition: Folk art, Hungarian, and the visual poem

Helen Hajnoczky's Magyarazni

from Helen Hajnoczky's Magyarazni
from Helen Hajnoczky's Magyarazni

The name of Helen Hajnoczky's current project, Magyarazni, means ‘to explain,’  but translates literally to mean ‘make it Hungarian.’ Magyarazni is comprised of 44 visual poems based on Hungarian folk art, one for each letter of the Hungarian alphabet. Each visual poem is accompanied by a poem written in English, each titled with a Hungarian word beginning with the letter in the accompanying visual poem.

Helen spoke with me about Magyarazni.

GB: I’m intrigued by how this work engages with issues of art vs. decoration, artist vs. artisan, and handiwork vs. print.

HH: Though many people who create folk art are talented, skilled artists, folk art is at the same time something that lay people can confidently engage with and participate in. Some very charming folk art is not perfect, but contains irregularities that reveal the hand of the artist. This is certainly the case with my work. I am not skilled at drawing, but I don’t think that fact precludes me from making interesting folk art. One of the things I find appealing about making contemporary folk art is that you can draw from a broad set of existing designs to use in your own work. Making folk art does not demand that you be completely innovative.

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