Seven African American Artists featured in “Self Taught” Exhibition at University Gallery
Once ignored and marginalized by the art world with labels such as “folk art” and “outsider art,” African American Vernacular art is unarguably one of the most vital creative forces in American art today. The work of seven such artists will be on display at Salve Regina’s University Gallery with the Feb. 21 opening of “Self Taught: Seven African American Vernacular Artists.”
The exhibition, co-curated by George Jacobs and Dan Powell, will feature paintings, sculpture and multi-media work by seven renowned artists: Bessie Harvey, Purvis Young, Thornton Dial Sr., David Butler, Jim Sudduth, Mose Tolliver and Mary T. Smith. The exhibition runs from Feb. 21 through March 30. The public is invited to the opening reception at the University Gallery, which is located in Mercy Hall on , on Feb. 21 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
, on Feb. 21 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Another highlight of the exhibition will be a gallery talk, Thursday, March 15, at 11 a.m. on the artists and exhibition given by art historian Paul Arnett. Arnett is the co-editor, with his father William Arnett, of the definitive study of African American Vernacular art, the two volume set, “Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South.” This event is also free and open to the public.
Poet, painter, sculptor and storyteller Bessie Harvey’s work grew out of a necessity to quiet the pain of a difficult and demanding life. Her gift was the ability to see and hear the inner spirit and voice of objects and to fashion them into visual form. Enchanting and mesmerizing, her expressive paintings and her sculptures, made from tree roots and found objects, are not easily forgotten.
Thornton Dial Sr.’s work is a remarkable fusion of painting, sculpture and drawing. For Dial, everything he sees or touches carries visual and expressive potential. Dial’s mixed media constructions and sculptures are uniquely personal responses to social and political events, as well as original and compelling articulations of his own insights and ideas.
work is a remarkable fusion of painting, sculpture and drawing. For Dial, everything he sees or touches carries visual and expressive potential. Dial’s mixed media constructions and sculptures are uniquely personal responses to social and political events, as well as original and compelling articulations of his own insights and ideas. Purvis Young is a well known local fixture in the “Overtown” section of Miami, Fla. He turned to painting while serving time in jail and draws inspiration for his work from the streets of Overtown. A sharp and observant social commentator, Young’s work reflects his commitment to faith and community. His energetic and expressive paintings exude an intensity and immediacy unmatched in contemporary art today.
is a well known local fixture in the “Overtown” section of Miami, Fla. He turned to painting while serving time in jail and draws inspiration for his work from the streets of Overtown. A sharp and observant social commentator, Young’s work reflects his commitment to faith and community. His energetic and expressive paintings exude an intensity and immediacy unmatched in contemporary art today. Mose Tolliver’s subjects range widely from family, animals, turtles and angels, all painted with an economic palette in a direct, lyrical style. One of the first African American vernacular artists to achieve national recognition Tolliver was deservedly considered one of the South’s most influential and respected artists. The art world was saddened by his recent death on Oct. 30, 2006.
David Butler’s inventive and fabulous constructions, critters and elaborate whirligigs fashioned from roofing tin and festooned with found objects have a bold directness and whimsical immediacy. Working with discarded materials, Butler created a complex environment of artistic forms inspired by bible stories and populated with fanciful creatures.
Jim Sudduth utilizes natural materials such as turnip leaves, roses, honey and mud to create the color and pigment for his paintings. The son of a Native American “medicine lady” he began painting in mud at the age of three, so the story goes, and has never stopped. The people, buildings and animals of his hometown, Fayette, Alabama, populate his work as well as paintings of Indians, sharecroppers, trains, trucks and cars.
Mary T. Smith first began decorating her yard in Hazelhurst, Miss. by hanging paintings of animals and people on her fence. Smith continued making paintings and decorating her yard until her one acre lot became a complete, comprehensive visual environment. “I did it to pretty up the place,” she once stated, “And to please the Lord.” Simple, direct and powerful her paintings often employed a limited palette and a simple text.
Co-curator George Jacobs, a collector of self-taught and African American Vernacular Art for over 15 years, worked with Dan Powell, a visual artist and adjunct professor of art at Salve Regina University, to bring the exhibit to fruition. Powell says, “With George’s help we have put together an exciting selection of some of the most important and respected African American Vernacular artists of the past 50 years. With the gallery presentation by art historian Paul Arnett, a leading figure and tireless proponent of this work, this is a unique art experience and an exciting educational opportunity not to be missed.” University Gallery is located in Mercy Hall and is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information or press images, please contact Craig Coonrod, University Gallery director, at 401-341-2254 or firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Dan Powell at email@example.com.Directions: From the Newport Bridge, take the Scenic Downtown Exit, go right after ramp. Take right at 2nd light to America’s
, follow straight about 1 mile, then follow UP HILL and becomesMemorial Blvd.
Take right at Bellevue Ave. Follow Bellevue and go left at light atNarragansett Avenue
. Follow and go right atOchre Point Avenue
(last turn). Two stop signs, take right toLeRoy Ave.
Mercy Hall is at the corner of LeRoy and Lawrence. Park on either Leroy or Lawrence.