Jack Knife Sculpture is authentic Canadian Folk Art: – Wins CNE Prize
DUNNVILLE (Special) – Sincere expressions of artistic talent may often flower off the beaten track and it is in this way that what many feel is a genuine contribution to Canadian folk art has been made in the Stromness a few miles south and east of Dunnville.
In this quiet hamlet off the main routes of travel J.A.Hoto a retired farmer has created in the past three years a gallery wood carvings that may stand in their own right any comparisons with the best of the more celebrated French Canadian art.
Colored with an unerring eye and a bright and refreshing taste, and carved with an unselfconscious feeling for animal and human form, the little figures have an almost irresistible appeal to young and old.
Using only a bone handled jack knife and a hand coping saw Mr. Hoto, who has never had any formal art education, has peopled a miniature world with diminutive representations of rural life
Mr. Hoto who calls his creative impulse merely a hobby has been a farmer all his life in the township of Sherbrooke in which he lives now. He recalls that as a youth he was talented with a jack- knife and at sketching, but when he took up the profession of farming he laid his artistic gift to one side for lack of time.
With his retirement five years ago this thoughts turned once more to the interest of his youth butit was not until three years ago that he once more took up wood carving.
Since that time he has completed a collection of carved figures, animal and human, that include a stagecoach and train, a racing Roman chariot being pulled at a gallop by a span of four dabbled horses and a tableau of 40 native Canadian birds in their exact colours and stances.
Partial recognition of his talent was received by Mr. Hoto at this year’s CNE when he took the exhibitions second prize in the hobby class for the three dimensional representation of a brewery wagon pulled by a team of six horses.
The work is complete with miniature barrels ready for delivery and a driver sawing at the reins as he controls the team. The work was completed during spare moments in about a month’s time.
A specialty of Mr Hoto’s are carvings of game birds in flight. These include Canada geese, pheasant and ducks colored naturally and carved with an amazing feeling for movement.
Many of these are to be seen in the homes of district people . U.S. tourists have been quick to recognize the originality of Mr. Hoto’s carvings and have purchased many of the plaques.
The larger groups which consist of wagons and horses in action plyus human figures and an occasional dog running pell-mell alongside are not offered for sale.
These, Mr. Hoto wishes to keep, but he will sometimes offer to carve a replica of any of his smaller works for those who appear interested.
Mr. Hoto’s workshop is a tiny room in a neat little shed in which there is barely room for himself and his current projects.
Here surrounded by animal pictures clipped from illustrated newspapers and magazines he creates his models of the life he has glimpsed about him on the farm and local towns and villages.
The front portion of a garage facing the village street is wired off and in glass cases made by himself many carvings are displayed.
Asked where he gets his ideas for carvings, Mr Hoto only smiled and observed they just came to him. Some he stated were suggested by cronies. Their influence he indicated had encouraged him to tackle his Exhibition exhibit.
His farm experience he said had given him his eye for carving the various gates of horses and the outlines of livestock.
This ability enables him to cut the living outline of a horse or cow out of a blank piece of paper in 60 seconds with no model or preliminary sketch to assist him.
“It’s not practice” Mr. Hoto observed. ”it’s just a gift.”