A display of the increasingly popular American outsider and folk art, including that of “the sign painter” from Fulton, Jesse Howard, will be exhibited at William Woods University Nov. 6 – Dec. 10.
It is one of two exhibits opening in the Mildred Cox Gallery. The second is a Mary Randolph Commemorative Retrospect, featuring the watercolors and illustrations of Mary Randolph, a Fulton artist who was a student of Thomas Hart Benton and worked in New York as a fashion illustrator in the 1950s.
Randolph, who died in September of last year, was known to donate many of her pieces for local charitable fundraisers. Several of these, as well as ones she sold, are on loan to WWU for the exhibit.
The other exhibit, “From Inside the Soul: Contemporary Southern Outsiders,” features selected works by visionary, self-taught Southerners, including Jesse Howard. Before he died in 1983, he became known nationally and internationally for his folk art, mostly signs painted on boards. His passionate, hand-lettered signs sometimes admonished politicians, commented on the times and quoted scripture.
His comments were incorporated into various constructions and assemblies made out of such things as old corn planters, tricycles and a dog-sized cart fashioned out of wood. He used materials on hand—pieces of colored glass, marbles, metal, leather (show soles), window shades and wood—as a medium for his signs.
Howard has been dubbed a “grass-roots artist,” “native and visionary artist,” “folk artist,” “primitive artist,” and an “idiosyncratic artist.”
The “outsider” exhibit includes a wide variety of art by artists whose work demonstrates the enormous range of styles and visions among artists working outside the mainstream in the United States since World War II. In addition to Howard, notable outsiders represented include Georgia preacher R. A. Miller and Alabama artists Jimmy Lee Sudduth and Mose Tolliver.
The majority of the artists included are African-American. Works by Purvis Young and Clementine Hunter illustrate black experience through their own unique and highly personal styles. The exhibit also showcases the array of media used by contemporary outsiders, who often employ found or recycled wood, tin, paper and glass in their creations.
All the talents represented are self-taught, and each demonstrates a powerful and distinctive vision that has brought them national attention.
On Nov. 11 Brett Rogers, WWU professor of history, will give a generously illustrated lecture based on the exhibit. That is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the Kemper Art Center. Also in conjunction with the exhibit, there will be a screening of the 2006 documentary “Purvis of Overtown” (time, date and place to be announced). This film chronicles the life and work of Purvis Young, one of the featured artists.
A reception will be held Nov. 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Gladys Woods Kemper Center for the Arts. It is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the gallery is free. For more information, call (573) 592-4245.