But the main focus was to remind those who visit the exhibition of the roots of folk art in America.
"These were objects from everyday life," Barry said. ""For the most part, these were created by people who were not academically trained and they created these objects for many different reasons. Some were for themselves while others were for a larger segment of society. They represented different people and their different stories. It's really the art of the people."
That art includes a carved watermelon serving as a sign for a roadside fruit and vegetable stand that a curator spotted. Other items include a late 18th-century chest with drawers decorated by Johannes Spitler, a furniture painter who plied his craft in the Massanutten area of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. One of the earliest depictions of an enslaved community, The Old Plantation, illustrates a West African stick dance.
The show's title, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum: Revolution & Evolution, has several meanings — and some point directly to Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Barry said.
Abby Rockefeller was a revolutionary in her art collecting. She was a founder of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and she was also a pioneer in the collection of American folk art. The 424 pieces she gave to the Foundation were discoveries she made in the 1930s and 1930s. They included ancestor portraits, furniture, pottery, weathervanes, carvings and toys. She surrounded herself with more than 125 folk art objects at Bassett Hall, the house in Williamsburg she and her husband called home when they visited the Colonial capital.
"If I have to live with a thing," she once wrote, "I would like to have it good looking."
The collection has grown to nearly 7,000 objects, beginning with pieces from the 1720s and extending to the present day. Revolution & Evolution features objects from formative periods of collecting, including the 1930s, when Abby Rockefeller was among only a few female collectors. The objects also cover the 1950s, when American art began to become an academic pursuit, and the 1970s, when the Bicentennial rekindled an interest in early American art.
"The idea of revolution is that the collection continued to grow from the original 424 objects," Barry said. "We try to keep the collection true to her vision, but we also know art changes. And we respect that."