Alex Mulligan and his "Stubble Jumpers": A "true" folk artist

Sheila Skye Morrison, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is the study of an individual artist and his multiple creative expressions. Using theories from the ethnography of belief, this study will investigate the many ways in which Alex Mulligan transposed his beliefs from one folkloric genre to another. Incorporating examples from communications theory, this study will discuss Alex Mulligan's synaesthesia, the ability to experience multiple simultaneous aesthetic sensations. Alex Mulligan was a Canadian dancer, poet and sculptor who used his talents to try to 'keep alive the music and dances of the pioneers.' (Mulligan, 1984). For sixty years of his life he was involved with vernacular dance: first as an entertainer of tourists in his home town of Bobcaygeon, Ontario; then as a student of tap dance in Toronto during the Great Depression; still later as a teacher of square dance and tap dance through the Toronto Board of Education and the Canadian Olde Tyme Square Dance Callers Association; and finally as a performer, in his own right, with creations he called the "Stubble Jumpers," kenitic, 'limberjack' sculptures which served as a microcosmic summation of his artistic experience. Alex Mulligan wrote and collected poetry as celebrations, testimonials and tools for his message. His making of the "Stubble Jumpers" was the tangible legacy of his message. This dissertation reviews studies of other individual folk artists, placing Alex Mulligan amongst his creative peers. In dance, Ontario square dance and 'step' dance are presented with special emphasis on Alex Mulligan's contribution to the aesthetic norms of vernacular dance in Canada. In poetry, recent studies of folk poetry in Ontario and Great Britain are used as models to discuss Alex Mulligan's repertoire. Finally, a detailed catalogue of the "Stubble Jumpers" and their performance is presented, providing insights into the mind of the artist. The presentation of the work of this "true" folk artist provides the structure for this dissertation. The discovery of Alex Mulligan's many transpositions of one type of artistic expression into another, exemplifying innovation and change within a traditional context, makes his work worth preserving.

Subject Area

Folklore|Cultural anthropology|Fine Arts|Dance

Recommended Citation

Morrison, Sheila Skye, "Alex Mulligan and his "Stubble Jumpers": A "true" folk artist" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9125725.