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Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-Taught Art presents historical and cultural analyses of southern self-taught art that focus on the cultural contexts of the art's creation, as well as on the lives and works of representative artists, while also addressing their reception by the mainstream art world.
Reflecting the South's complex cultural, religious, racial, and political admixture, the artists draw from, and frequently combine, diverse visual sources and creative traditions. Sacred and Profane focuses, in particular, on southern artists' efforts to find personally fulfilling forms of aesthetic expression that give vision and voice to the simultaneous demands of the sacred and the profane dimensions of existence.
Because in the South religion is woven through the very fabric of society, interlacing social beliefs, customs, practices, and behaviors, vernacular artists often testify to intensely held religious beliefs through their art. Essays by Charles Reagan Wilson and Frédéric Allemel discuss the range of religious artistic creations, while studies of Howard Finster, Myrtice West, Anderson Johnson, and Eddie Martin (St. EOM) illuminate the intensely personal religious experience of particular artists. The works of some artists, such as Nellie Mae Rowe and Clementine Hunter, address both the sacred and the profane dimensions of their lives, while the art of Bill Traylor, George Andrews, and Thornton Dial focuses more on the individual artist's social observations and personal responses to their times and the history of the South.
Carol Crown is a professor of art at the University of Memphis. Charles Russell is an associate professor of English and director of the American Studies Graduate Program at Rutgers University.