Photographs capture true spirit of Southern self-taught artists
Gathering twenty-one widely known Southern artists from four Southern
states, photographer Karekin Goekjian has captured the vital human
connections between the creator and the object.
Working with moonlight, twilight, or a touch of flash, Goekjian
photographs each artist and his art in the settings where that creative
work occurs--the yards, worksheds, and woods of Alabama, Georgia,
Mississippi, and North Carolina.
"Goekjian's photographic art has an intensity that holds its own with
self-taught art," says art critic and writer Donald Kuspit. "His
photographs have the same aura of direct yet enigmatic statement,
conveying the same sense of urgent abstraction and moral emergency."
From Alabama, Goekjian photographed Thornton Dial, Sr., Lonnie Holley,
Ronald Lockett, W. C. Rice, Jimmy Lee Suddeth, and Mose Tolliver. From
Georgia, Howard Finster, Dilmus Hall, Peter Loose, R. A. Miller, Harold
Rittenberry, Jr., Reverend John D. Ruth, and Willie Tarver are included.
Mississippi artists included are Burgess Dulaney, A. J. Mohammed, Sulton
Rogers and Earl Simmons. And North Carolinians photographed are Benny
Carter, James Harold Jennings, Clyde Jones, and Vollis Simpson.
Goekjian's extraordinarily vivid portraits of them in their special
environments seem as natural as the clay, metal, wood, and paint these
artists use. In a sense Goekjian paints with light. Each portrait
produces a surreal effect that parts the curtain on the individual
artist's special world and achieves a rare empathy with the subject
matter. Drawing on the raw, earthy spirit that infuses these paintings
and sculptures, Goekjian creates photos that are works of art in themselves.
Goekjian, a native of Beirut, Lebanon, and a resident of Athens,
Georgia, is a photographer whose work has been widely exhibited and is
in permanent collections of major international museums.
Robert Peacock, who wrote the artists' biographies and edited this book,
has also written Paradise Garden: A Trip through Howard Finster's
Visionary World and Sleep: Bedtime Reading. He lives in New York City.
Gerard C. Wertkin is the Director of the Museum of Folk Art, New York
City, and a professor at New York University.
OUTSIDER ARTISTS IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
"Why do I make art? I don't know why I do art. For fifteen years of my
life I wouldn't give you two cents for all the art on earth. I didn't
even finger paint when I was in school."
BENNY CARTER, north carolina
"I PAINT with my brush, 'cause that's why I got it and that brush don't
wear out. When I die, the brush dies."
JIMMY LEE SUDDETH, alabama
"Howard Finster is a second Noah, to reach the world before it is too
late. I am having more success in a way than Noah had. The first Noah
preached to the world; he didn't get a one of them saved. This is what I
am all about here trying to get peace in the world a thousand more
years, to live here."
HOWARD FINSTER, georgia
"I always liked to play with mud. I guess I never growed up."
BURGESS DULANEY, mississippi
"I love to paint because my paintings are beautiful. The president told
MOSE TOLLIVER, alabama
120 pp., 85 full-color photographs