Discover southern folk art at Upstairs

Published 1:15 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Southern folk art is the subject of a comprehensive exhibit opening Friday, February 26 at the Upstairs Artspace. A public reception is Saturday, February 27, from 5 to 8 p.m. with refreshments and harmonica music by Lee Stockdale.
“Looking Back, Walking Forward: Evolution of Southern Folk Art” is a retrospective of an art form that delights people of all ages. The 200 works include examples of religious visions, animals, people going about their daily lives, portraits, flowers, architecture, ceramic figures and vessels, woodcarving, textiles and more.
Several of the 50-some artists have attained rock star status like Mose Tolliver, Lonnie (“The Sand Man”) Holley, Purvis Young and Beverly Buchanan. Many artists like Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Missionary Mary Proctor, Howard Finster and Bernice Sims are in museum collections around the world. Other younger artists have developed signature styles that are highly prized, people like Cornbread Anderson, Gabriel Shaffer and Michael Banks. Newly emerging artists include Sherry Dinkins and Harry Strider.
All the artists are from the South, long regarded as the cradle of American folk art. Many older artists dealt with discrimination and poverty, but their art helped them endure and was their passion. Primarily self taught, they had little to work with, but they could not keep from creating, even if the surface was a piece of tin roof and the paint was mud.
The newer wave of folk artists might enjoy better circumstances and be better educated, but they communicate like their predecessors, from intuition and immediate experience. “Looking Back, Walking Forward” shows common links between older and younger folk artists, but also how todays folk art can be contemporary even sophisticated in feeling and message.
About three-fourths of the Upstairs exhibit is from the extensive folk art collection of Ted and Ann Oliver who own Olivers Southern Folk Art Gallery in Flat Rock. Curator Ted Oliver has selected art that helps people understand and appreciate how folk art has changed over 50 years. His assistant is Harry Sparshott.
All art in the show is for sale. The exhibit runs through April 10. On Tuesday, March 2, at 7 p.m., Oliver will give a free lecture, “Challenging the Definition of Folk Art.” For more information call 828-859-2828.
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