Art Brut III

 

Minnie-Evans-Untitled
Minnie-Evans-Untitled

In this third installment in the occasional series Art Brut (for further information please refer to the previous posts Art Brut and Art Brut II) I am concentrating on four extraordinary 20th Century African-American artists from the Southern States of the US.  Each artist concerns and insights are very different from one another, but they do share some of the overriding attributes common to art brut ; notably the urgent necessity to create, an obsessional desire to give shape and form to the inner realms of experience and vision as well as being late starters, who then prolifically produced exceptional works in a white hot blaze of inspiration.

Minnie Evans

Minnie Evans worked for most of her long life (she died in 1987 at the age of 95) as a domestic and gatekeeper at the Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, North Carolina. On Good Friday 1935 Evans heard a voice say, “Why don’t you draw or die?” so she completed her first drawing that day. However it would another five years before Evans begun drawing again but she never stopped afterwards. Initially Evans used crayons and wax then oils and mixed media collage. Characterised by religious imagery, lush psychedelic colours with faces and fauna emerging from the symmetrical abstract backgrounds  Evan’s gorgeous later compositions are truly a vision of Eden before the fall.

 

Minnie Evans-Untitled 1960
Minnie Evans-Untitled 1960
Minnie Evans-untitled c 1960
Minnie Evans-untitled c 1960
Minnie-Jones-Evans-Untitled-Night-with-angel-wings-surrounded-by-eyes-1963
Minnie-Jones-Evans-Untitled-Night-with-angel-wings-1963
Minnie Evans-Untitled 1973
Minnie Evans-Untitled 1973

J.B Murry

J.B Murry worked as a share-cropper and tenant farmer in Glascock County, Georgia for most of his life. At the age of 70, Murry experienced a vision of an eagle descending from the sun. This, Murry believed, was a message from God to spread the word through a ‘spirit script’ that combined asemic writing and abstract imagery, produced while in a trance. Although illiterate, Murry could decipher the language if he looked at the paintings through a glass of water. Murry gained a reputation as a mystic and people would visit to ask for benediction and protection from harmful forces.

J.B Murry
J.B Murry
J.B Murry-Untitled
J.B Murry-Untitled
J.B Murry-Spirit Script
J.B Murry-Spirit Script
J.B Murry
J.B Murry

Bill Traylor

Born into slavery in 1854 Bill Traylor worked most of his life on a plantation in Alabama. Without formal education and illiterate it wasn’t until Traylor moved to Montgomery at the age of 85 that he started creating, using found pencil stubs on bits of scrap cardboard. He was befriended  by the artist Charles Shannon who supplied him with brushes and paint. In a three year period he produced over 1,200 works, often of animals in silhouette or his memories of rural life.

Bill Traylor
Bill Traylor
Bill-Traylor-Rabbit
Bill-Traylor-Rabbit
Bill Traylor
Bill Traylor
Bill Traylor
Bill Traylor

 

Frank Jones

Frank Albert Jones was born in Texas in 1900 with a fetal membrane over his left eye (a caul), the mark of someone, it is frequently believed, that can see into the world of the spirits. Jones said that he saw his first haints (haunts or ghosts) at the age of  nine. After several prior imprisonments (though he always maintained his innocence) it was during his twenty year stretch for  murder that Jones, at the age of 64 first started drawing ‘devil houses’. During the next five years until his death Jones produced over 200 drawings, usually in black and red (smoke and fire, suitable colours for devils) of these intricate structures where the creatures, both charming and threatening, float in their cells. At first Jones signed the works with his prison number, 114591, until a fellow inmate taught him to write his own name.

Frank Jones
Frank Jones
Frank Jones
Frank Jones
Frank Jones
Frank Jones
Frank Jones
Frank Jones

 

 

 

41 thoughts on “Art Brut III

  1. I’m pleased that you’ve revisited Art Brut. As a southern American I’m intrigued by the background of these gifted artists. These beautifully unique paintings by untrained hands proves that creativity comes from within. I especially love the artwork of Minnie Evans, beyond captivating. Thank you Mr. Cake, excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It is stunning to consider the odds of all creativity under the stifling circumstances of this era. On a side note the first piece in your series by Bill Traylor depicts a small shanty very much like the back houses of grand plantations in the south where slaves were housed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for the local knowledge. I wasn’t really sure but it is a compelling image, like an illustration of a particularly grim Southern Gothic fairy tale. I think these artists are worth close study.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another fantastic series of artists. I’m absolutely enchanted by Art Brut. And the stories behind the artists as well. Murry’s spirit script especially! Doesn’t it make want to read everything through a glass of water? Excellent stuff. Thank you for the introduction!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure as always to highlight unusual and driven artists. Obviously I am partial to them all and thinking about their stories actually makes me stand back in awe. The spirit script is something else, maybe all art should be looked at in this way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is very intriguing- beginning late in life to produce such elaborate, intricate and evocative work. Makes you wonder if there truly was a voice that began speaking to them, or if it was always there but they weren’t able to hear it. What a marvel the mind is.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My opinion for what it is worth is that it was always there but it needed some event to cleanse the doors of perception and then it just flows out in an overwhelming rush. Some of these artists started spectacularly late, Murry at 70 and Traylor at 85. 85 and then to produce 1200 pieces in three years.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Your theory actually makes perfect sense. And has scientific backing. There are certain neurological diseases in which the brain and spinal cord might be damaged, but new pathways are formed in the healing process. Changes in behavior and abilities have been noted following head trauma as well. Not exactly the cleansing of the doors of perception you had in mind I’m sure! Nevertheless I think you’re onto something…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. In cultures with a shamanistic tradition it is interesting to note that you can only become a shaman and travel to the various spirit worlds after undergoing a profound crisis of some nature, be it medical, psychic or nervous. So it ties in, but you know me I don’t really want logical explanations, I want mystery!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Love these: thanks for putting them up. I think of my own drawings as cartoons. I love doing them. Never been able to draw, paint etc in my life, but I love the twin concepts of color and meaning. These paintings are heavily endowed with both.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I would like to see more of this work. I remember how my wyes were opened when I first went to Oaxaca and saw Oaxacan / Mexican modern art. Changed my whole way of viewing the world. Good art does that, good writing too.

        Liked by 1 person

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