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Self-Taught Art
Folk Artists

Clementine Hunter
Clementine HunterBorn January 1887, Hidden Hill Plantation (near Cloutierville), Louisiana. The descendent of slaves, Hunter was born at Hidden Hill-the infamous Louisiana plantation that, according to local legend, inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom's Cabin. Hunter moved to nearby Melrose Plantation at the age fourteen or fifteen and spent most of the remainder of her life there, working first in the fields and later in the Big House.

Clementine Hunter was inspired by her plantation life, portraying the plantation hands at work, at church, and at play in her paintings. She also painted floral still lifes, an occasional picture of domestic animals, a series of portraits, and some mask-like images.

Hunter's earliest pieces were done on scraps of paper, cardboard, window shades, paper bags — in other words, on anything she could find — often with house paint. Later Mignon and Register, her patrons, were supplying better materials and she was painting on canvas board and canvas, with oil paints and watercolors as well as house paint. Hunter tended to repeat her most popular subjects, although she might vary the composition or colors slightly. Hunter painted a few mural-size works for Melrose Plantation, but the majority of her works are no larger than 20 by 30 inches. She was an extremely prolific worker and, in all, painted

Shields Landon ("S.L.") Jones
Born in 1901 in Indian Mills, West Virginia, S.L. Jones started to carve after the death of his first wife. In the early 19070's he began taking some of his small carvings of rabbits, dogs, and horses to county fairs; the many ribbons he has won are pinned to a bulletin board in his shed studio. By early 1975, Jones has started to make larger carvings, as well as heads. His figures, whether carved or drawn, male or female, are depictions of a familiar single personage, generally smiling. "The heads look like I feel," he says, "happy or sad — they aren't of anyone in particular but they come form me."

Peter Minchell
Born October 11, 1889, in Treves, Germany, Peter Michell is thought to have begun drawing around 1960 and to have continued into the mid-1970's. His first works are unusual floral and arboreal representations that often bear little resemblance to reality. His Geological Phenomena series, which include illustrations of natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, was done around 1972 and was the work that brought him to the attention of various museum people, including Robert Bishop, director of the Museum of American Folk Art, who recognized Minchell's unique talent and included the artist in his book Folk Painters of America.

At the bottom margin of some of the drawings, in a small and meticulous script, the artist wrote comments and explained the story that is depicted in the work. He used pale and quiet colors, with greens and yellows predominating, but his subject matter is often unsettling and gives a sense of ominous action and movement.

Ike Morgan
Ike Edward Morgan was born October 8, 1958 in Rockdale, Texas. Around the age of ten Morgan moved to Austin where he was raised by his grandmother. After high school, he worked for the City of Austin painting fire hydrants in the 1970s, until becoming disabled by schizophrenia.

In 1977, Morgan was arrested and charged with the murder of his grandmother. Determined incompetent to stand trial, he was placed in the Austin State Hospital. He remembers little about his life prior to his hospitalization. In the hospital, Morgan made art on his own, quietly producing paintings and drawings in a variety of media including pastel, ink, oil, and acrylic on paper, cardboard, and raw canvas. He also frequently worked on found surfaces often salvaging materials from a dumpster at the hospital.

Morgan work consist of portraits of friends, family members, and celebrities as well as religious subject matter. He often refers to magazines and books for these images. Most recently he has made portraits of U.S. presidents inspired by the portraits on bills and a book on U.S. presidents.

In 1987 Jim Pirtle, and employee of the state hospital, took some of Morgan's drawings to the Leslie Muth Gallery in Houston, and subsequently Morgan's work began to gain recognition. His work has been included in a number of important exhibitions. He continues to reside at the hospital where he works prolifically.

Mose Tolliver
Tolliver, one of twelve children born to sharecropper parents, had little formal education. His early years were spent helping on the family farm. When his family later moved to Montgomery, Tolliver worked at odd jobs, mainly gardening.

In the late 1960's, while, working in a furniture company, Tolliver was permanently disabled when a load of marble fell on his feet. He began painting after the accident, apparently inspired by a local art show.

A prolific artist, Tolliver has produced as many as ten paintings in one day, usually executed with house paint on wood or Masonite. Subjects are frequently repeated and range from animals such as birds, fish, turtles, and snakes to people (self-portraits are common) to abstract designs.

Inez Walker
Born Inez Stedman, 1911, in Sumter, South Carolina. Inez Walker began to draw her expressive, imaginatively colored portraits — usually of women — while she was in prison for the "criminally negligent homicide " of a man who she felt had mistreated her. Elizabeth Bayley, who taught remedial English at the Bedford Hills facility, showed some of her drawings to Pat Parsons, an art dealer. Parsons bought most of the drawings and befriended the artist.

Walker's first efforts were on the back of the mimeographed pages of the prison newspaper. Later Pat Parsons supplied her with first-rate materials — good paper, watercolors, pencils (both colored and graphite), ink crayons, and felt markers.

Walker did not concern herself with realistic color schemes; her faces and other visible areas of skin may be shown as solid red or blue, with details set off in black. The backgrounds contain boldly geometric and linear designs, and similar designs are often repeated on the subjects' clothing. [Since her release from the correctional center in 1974, Inez Walker has returned to migrant farm work in upstate New York.]

Most of Walker's drawings are about 17 by 11 inches in size. Some are larger, and approximately twenty of them measure 42 by 30 inches. Walker is known to have completed three or four hundred drawings in total.

Source: Chuck and Jan Rosenak's Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists

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