American Folk Art Museum Archives

John Byam Papers Edit

Summary

Identifier
A0038

Dates

  • 1971 – 2012 (Creation)

Extents

  • 1.75 linear feet (Part)
    (standard document cases; half-size document case)

Agent Links

Subjects

Notes

  • Abstract

    The John Byam Papers contain drafts of letters, notes, and drawings written by John Byam, mostly during the time he lived at the Hearthstone Home for Adults in Hobart, New York. The bulk of the materials is letters that Byam wrote to his extended family, which he usually copied over several times. Other material includes several composition books with Byam's notes, drawings, and lists in them.

  • Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open for research. Access to sensitive materials may be restricted at the discretion of the American Folk Art Museum.

  • Conditions Governing Use

    The John Byam Papers is owned by the American Folk Art Museum. The collection is subject to all copyright laws, and is dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship.

  • Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Denny Tomkins and Neil Rochmis, 2016

  • Biographical Note

    Born 1929, Oneonta, New York; died 2013.

    Using combinations of wood, sawdust, glue, paint and ink, Byam has produced three-dimensional objects that while recognizable, remain equivocal. Byam’s sculptural work follows in a long tradition of woodcarving in rural America, however, his use of sawdust mixed with a glue binder lends many of the objects a soft focus, giving them the appearance of emerging or slipping from view. This is also reflected in the artist’s choice of imagery that at times indicates a personal longing for travel and exploration beyond his daily life. Conversely, Byam’s works on paper, utilizing a variety of materials including pencil, crayon, and marker, often include portraits and written commentary, and speak clearly and directly about contemporary culture and its fascination with media and celebrity.

    Born in Oneonta, New York in 1929, Byam spent a large part of his life assisting his parents in the daily operations of the family-owned trailer court. In the late 1940s Byam went to work for the Delaware and Hudson Railway, then served two years with the U.S. military stationed in Japan during the Korean War. In 1952 he returned home to his parents and took several jobs, including one as a part-time gravedigger for a local cemetery.

    Source: Andrew Edlin Gallery, http://www.edlingallery.com/artist/john-byam

  • Preferred Citation

    [item description], [date], John Byam Papers, [box and folder number], American Folk Art Museum Archives, New York

  • Scope and Contents

    The John Byam Papers contain drafts of letters, notes, and drawings written by John Byam, mostly during the time he lived at the Hearthstone Home for Adults in Hobart, New York. The bulk of the materials is letters that Byam wrote to his extended family, which he usually copied over several times, often making subtle changes. These letters span from 1989 until about 2011, and almost all of them have multiple drafts of the same letter. Byam indicated that he rewrote these letters by noting, "I rewrote letter" or sometimes, "I didn't include this in letter." Byam almost always numbered his pages, and kept drafts of the same letter together, though some pages are loose and could not be matched with complete letters. Byam also kept extensive lists on various topics, which were also copied over several times. Examples of lists include: "The near or most popular names of boys"; "TV shows that are good to look at"; and, "The women who work here at Hearthstone."

    Other material includes several composition books with Byam's notes, drawings, and lists in them. Byam would often tie up packets of these same notes, along with newspaper clippings, often with drawings on them, and place them inside the notebooks. These packets were untied and flattened, and when they were found inside notebooks, the page where they had been kept has been correlated to the material in the folder.

  • Arrangement

    The John Byam Papers are arranged first by type of material, and then chronologically. The first group of material includes notebooks and tied packets of papers. The next group is the bulk of the material, drafts of letters, and these are all arranged chronologically. The next group includes miscellaneous drawings, memos, and lists.

Components