Poets are born, not paid. (Addison Mizner 1872 - 1933)

When I first started to become interested in art, it was in large part due to my study of folk art and self-taught artists. There are about a million definitions of "folk art" and an ongoing battle as to what kinds of art should be included under that heading. I've come to the conclusion that the important elements, for me, include:

1) an artist who is not academically trained in design or technique, and/or

2) an artist who creates to fulfill a need (i.e. "we need a quilt for that bed, and why not make it interesting to look at?", or "I really need to see and do something besides housework or I'm going to go insane!")

I was intrigued at the passion and creativity of ordinary people, and the masterpieces they were able to produce using only the materials at hand and only the time they could find after their other responsibilities were fulfilled.

Mostly, I guess I felt drawn to folk art because I knew I was not an "artist" but I also knew I needed to create things in order to feel alive. I figured this out at an early age, but it was not until about age 30 that I began to really sense how vital it was to my everyday happiness.

So this week, (since it's November and there's not a whole lot else going on worth talking about besides the election which will thank goodness be over tomorrow or at least Wednesday morning when we wake up), I'd like to share some of my favorite artists with you. I'd love to know whether any of them speak to you they way they do me -- some are works that have had a profound impact on my life, a power that I find to be thrilling but also curious.

I can't always explain why.

Morris Hirshfield (1872 - 1946)
Morris Hirshfield was a garment worker (NYC - Polish immigrant) who began oil painting after his retirement.
(be sure to click on the images so you can really see them)

Girl with her Dog


I think part of what I love about his paintings is that they convey his obvious love of lush fabric and pattern.

American Beauty

It is easy to see that his career in clothing continued to influence his art even when he switched from fabric to paint.

Beach Girl

Girl with Angora Cat

Bill Traylor (1854 - 1947)

Bill Traylor was a freed slave who could not even write his own name. He began drawing at age 83.

Man and Large Dog

In just three years, seated on a box on Monroe Street in Montgomery, Alabama, he produced more than 1500 works, some of the most important modern American drawings. He often used the thin cardboard recycled from laundered shirts.

Untitled (Radio)

Blue Dog

Bill Traylor once said, "I wanted to be plowing so bad today, I drawed me a man plowing."

Man with Mule Plowing

When he was old and quite sick, sleeping on the floor in the back room of a funeral parlor, his life near its end, he was still able to tap his lifetime of experiences and create art out of them.

Possum Hunt

I hope you've enjoyed meeting (or being re-introduced to) Morris and Bill.

I'll invite more of my friends over soon. We hope you'll stop by!


april said...

thank you for introducing us to morris and bill. the last one by bill almost seems pretty to me until you look close and real how haunting it is. (which reminds me to thank you for the book suggestion in previous post and ask if you've read "incidents in the life of a slave girl" - it was one of my favorite reads the year i read it - not that i get many books in a year - i'm a slow reader). anyhoo, i look forward to meeting more of your friends.

i feel kind of boring saying it now after seeing the beauty of these obscure painters (i.e. i'm sure there is so much i have yet to be exposed to, but i did have to memorize 200+ paintings in college once), but van gogh has always been my favorite. i love seeing one in person and witnessing how thick the paint is globbed on and the texture of it all.

susan m hinckley said...

I agree -- I too am a Van Gogh maniac. My only complaint about our trip to Amsterdam was that the people in charge only allowed us 45 minutes at the Van Gogh museum (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?) I have written down the title "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" so I can pick it up on my next Barnes & Noble spree. Thanks April -- keep the book recommendations coming!

Mechal said...

You might be interested in my new book, OAINTING A HIDDEN LIFE: THE ART OF BILL TRAYLOR, (LSU Press, March 2009).

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