Light of the Spirit: Portraits of Southern Outsider Artistsby Karekin Goekjian, Robert Peacock
Pub. Date: 10/01/1998
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
This spectacular volume features photographs and biographies of twenty-one acclaimed self-taught artists from four states in the American South. From Georgia: Howard Finster, Dilmus Hall, Peter Loose, R. A. Miller, Harold Rittenberry, Jr., Rev. John D. Ruth, and Willie Tarver. From Alabama: Thornton Dial, Sr., Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, W. C. Rice, Jimmy Lee Suddeth, and Mose Tolliver. From North Carolina: Benny Carter, James Harold Jennings, Clyde Jones, and Vollis Simpson. From Mississippi: Burgess Dulaney, A. J. Mohammed, Sulton Rogers, and Earl Simmons. Additional works by the artists are pictured individually.
All these artists go with what comes natural. Each is shown here in a portrait with examples of his work. Most create and paint three-dimensional objects of wood, metal, found materials, clay, or cement-whirligigs, animals, religious subjects, portrait sculptures. Many, especially Finster, Ruth, Rice, Hall, and Simpson, also decorate their houses and yards with their art and create fantastical sculpture gardens. Dulaney makes clay animals inspired by the television show Wild Kingdom. Jennings has created a roadside environment of windmills, small houses, and signs filled with images of animals, humans, the sun, the moon, and stars. Jones shapes fanciful critters and human forms out of logs and tree stumps. Rittenberry's metal sculptures arise out of discarded vacuum cleaners, automobile parts, garden tools, and other found objects. Suddeth, one of the few included here who is solely a painter, works on plywood with a mixture of paint, mud, charcoal from the fireplace, and sugar, which he calls "sweetwater".
Goekjian's extraordinarily vivid portraits of them in theirspecial environments are natural too, for he uses moonlight and artificial light. In a sense he paints with light. Each portrait, a work of art in itself, produces a surreal effect that parts the curtain on a special world and achieves a rare empathy with the subject matter.
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