In early January of 2008, dealers Marcy Carsey and Susan Baerwald of Just Folk in Summerland, Ca. scored a bit of a coup when they purchased the entire American folk art collection of Barry and Edith Briskin. Formed over a period of forty years, it constituted one of the preeminent collections of American sculptural folk art in existence. The acquisition was a quick way to upgrade an already exceptional inventory, but it also served to further expand on the dealers’ mission of bringing the highest quality American folk art to the West Coast.
Unfortunately, on November 13, 2008, a group of ten college students left a smoldering bonfire in the hills of Montecito, CA and the first of several wildfires to hit Southern California burned hundreds of homes. Sadly, included in the carnage was the bulk of the Briskin Collection, which was being kept in a nearby storage facility. Of the 116 objects in the collection, only 27 pieces were spared, either by being previously sold to private collectors or by being stored at the gallery itself. Lost forever are such seminal pieces as the Wood Carousel Figure in the Shape of a Swan (the only other similar figure being left with Allan Katz), the Penobscot Man Trade Figure and the Bust of Young Man (formerly in William Greenspon’s collection).
Luckily, Marcy Carsey and Susan Baerwald had the foresight to develop a comprehensive catalog of the collection. Designed by Merlin Stonecypher, this handsome catalog had the unintended consequence of being the only archive of the entire Briskin Collection. It’s an important volume and a sad reminder of the many folk art masterpieces that are now gone forever.
A limited number of catalogs are still available by contacting Just Folk.
Wood Carousel Figure In The Shape of a Swan
Found in the Northeast. Late 19th Century
Wood and polychrome paint
55”l x 24”d x 47”h
Bust of a Young Man
Pine with polychrome
20”h x 16”w x 4”d
Man in Suit Whirligig
Late 19th Century, found in New England
Wood with polychrome paint
46”h (with stand) x 11.5”w x 8”d
Lady Liberty Whirligig
Wood with weathered polychrome surface; metal star and crown
32.5”h x 6.5”w x 5”d
Bust of a Young Girl
14”h x 9”w x 5”d
All images courtesy of Just Folk