Annual Outsider Art Fair Post 2017. Hawkins Bolden Garden of African-American Outsider Art Sculpture
Mr. Bolden's make-do scarecrows have attracted attention from collectors (and some scholars) for many years now…but you don't really need a scarecrow unless you have a garden. If you ever wondered what a blind man's garden might look like, this is it. Years had passed since he laid it out and surrounded it with muscular figures, somehow, from his mind's eye. The only eyes Bolden had were taken from him as a child while playing in Memphis, TN.
Like the figures for which Bolden has become known, the garden is tactile as much as visual…and each piece was placed by the artist. Don't expect any precise lines. This garden was laid out by hand, not sight or surveyor…and by an artist feeling for proper placement with his hands alone. No taut line of string and chalk to follow. As such, Mr. Bolden's garden has more than a little in common with the abstract and varying panels of an African-American improvisational quilt. Seen from above, it might have appeared to be a quilt made from scraps, but in rusted steel.
Quilts from Signs and Symbols: African Images in African-American Quilts - Maude Southwell Wahlman, Penguin: 1993. Sourced HERE
But is it imbued with more? Hawkins Bolden (and his sister) were born on the same day in 1914. Why is this relevant? It places his youth only a lifetime from the Civil War and 50 years before the Civil Rights Act. Scholars of African-American art might think it possible he retained deep-rooted African esthetics and meaning, blind or not. Subconscious or not. Historical, psychological and tenacious attempts to hold on to traditions left behind.
Can a blind man play the blues? Yes…if he has them.
Or is it no deeper than a man wanting to make something he could. Not black, not white, but simply an anomaly? Are the figures "art" only when recognized as such by collectors and removed from the original environment and presented on a white wall?
His own explanations for the scarecrows were tossed off and lighthearted…but then would Mr. Bolden have learned decades before that African-American men were taught to avoid boasting by the dominant white culture? Did he learn to dismiss his art with humor and deflection as a survival technique? He lived in a state which did not even allow interracial marriage until 1967. A state which begrudgingly gave in but still retains the law on their books.
How can one ask an artist who has never seen his own work what it means?
Note the rudimentary stakes. Each has some shape or form which makes it more than a simple pole. Old handles, nozzles and angular forms of industrial purpose. Salvage and scrap, but made to live again. Several of Mr. Bolden's masks and figures line the area. One piece consists of the discarded base to an electric fan. It has been given eyes and a long, soggy tongue (or beard?) made of carpet. Imagine that…a sculpture given eyes by a blind man. A larger piece on the other side of the property hangs adorned with rags for straw hair.
At the 2016 Outsider Art Fair, the SHRINE GALLERY created an installation recreating the garden. Photo Credit Claire Voon for Hyperallergic used with permission.
It is fraught…or even indulgent to speculate about Mr. Bolden's sculpture. Who are we to understand this place while only we can see? It took a fairly sophisticated sighted person to appreciate the work while wandering home from a tavern. I hesitate to use "saved" as the original environment is gone…but wide open (if bleary) eyes recognized this place was profound. Mr. Bolden leaves us with instruction to see clearly but that sometimes mystery and wonder is all we can know.. Even a glance is precious and a gift we should not take for granted.
Dull Tool Dim Bulb runs an annual post relevant to the Outsider Art Fair. Previous posts over the years include Sister Gertrude Morgan, Basil Merrett, Nyla Thompson, Asa Moore, Justin McCarthy and more…search for "outsider art" in the blog's search box.
See also Claire Voon review of the 2016 Outsider Art Fair HERE Shrine Gallery is HERE
See also the film MAKE by Malcom Hearn which shows the artist at work. Available HERE
William Arnett article on Hawkins Bolden HERE at the Souls Grown Deep site.
Hawkins Bolden Environment photos by Jim Linderman 1994. Books and ebooks by the author on folk art and photography HERE
"Most of Gatto's paintings—scenes of everyday life in New York, exotic cultures, historical events, and tropical episodes —are packed with endless detail built up with many layers of minute brushstrokes. Gatto, a bachelor and a former featherweight boxer, lived with his widowed stepmother in the section of New York known as "Little Italy." Painters Elaine and Willem De Kooning lived in the next apartment in the late 1930s, and Elaine De Kooning and other artists encouraged Gatto's painting. His work received critical acclaim through several exhibitions in New York galleries during the 1940s and 1950s, his most productive period." Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)
Oil on Board c. 1950 Collection Jim Linderman
Gatto in the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gatto papers at Syracuse University
The Art and Times of Victor Joseph Gatto in the Clarion 1988
Text in full begins on page 58 HERE
Vintage Folk Art Rubber Band Gun Kids. Tough ones! I date this original photograph to the 1950s, and wish the weapon were adequate today. A plank of wood, a clothespin, some rubber bands and a foe.
Vintage Photograph Collection Jim Linderman
An Early Panel Comic Strip drawn by Elizabeth Stohn Associated Art Studios Correspondence School for Cartoonists 1918
While this early, drawn by hand "comic" strip (or graphic novel if you like) is nearly 100 years old, the young woman who drew it had little to base her format on. Dating to 1918 or so, there seems to have been only some 20 major published newspaper strips at the time being told in panels. The Katzenjammer Kids, which appeared in 1897, is credited as the first strip with a story told in panels. Mutt and Jeff came along ten years later. The third major strip of the era, Krazy Kat, appeared in 1913. The character had been part of "The Dingbat Family" a few years before it appeared as a spin-off.
The other characteristic defining a comic strip is the use of "balloons" to carry conversations. This has that as well.
The artist here is a young woman named Elizabeth Stohn of Newburgh, New York. This work was found with several sketchbooks filled with single drawings as well as an 88 page graphic novel drawn in 1921. She had progressed, and some of the work from that book are shown below.
Ms. Stohn seems to have seen her share of misery by an early age…and in fact "comic" strip is a misnomer. Her strip works are lurid. The earliest comic strips were often far from funny. As David Kunzle writes "the early (pre-19th-century) strip was seldom comic either in form or in content, and many contemporary strips are in no sense primarily humorous. The terms comics and comic strip became established about 1900 in the United States, when all strips were indeed comic." Still, if anything characterizes her strip work, it is perils of a young woman. This and the larger book work are filled with abuse and violence. One hopes it was not autobiographical. But she was ahead of her time.
There is a Hedwig Stohn from Newburgh, NY listed as being born in 1880. Father of Elizabeth? Husband? There is an Elizabeth Stohn born nearby in 1910, which would make the artist a child while doing the works shown here, and only 14 at the time of enrolling in the Associated Art Studios. Possible but unlikely? She passed in 1988, and could be our artist, if a precocious one. In an earlier post on Dull Tool Dim Bulb a drawing by the artist was shown requesting further information. As yet, no response. Should additional information be forthcoming, it would be nice to see the entire 88 page graphic novel "From Poverty to Luxary" (sic) published!
Works by Elizabeth Stohn 1918 - 1924 Collection Jim Linderman
(You may also be interested in the BOOK Eccentric Folk Art Drawings by the Author.
available from Blurb.
It is pretty hard to impart motion (and gooeyness) to a metal object, but this vintage die-cut mold certainly does. I handled many frogs in my younger, wet feet days, and I can assure you this is a perfect rendition of a frog. Die-Cut molds have been used for a century and more. All those colorful stickers from Victorian days? Die-cut. They cut leather, rubber, you name it into recognizable shapes. Note sharp edges here. A die-cut mold is stamped down hard to create a representation.
This Frog has been used a long time. It has a repair or two, and even some neon green goo stuck in the groove which probably came along late in his career. This guy survived in the industrial machine swamp for decades...right up to the neon era.
Vintage Frog Mold no date. Collection Jim Linderman Follow the BOXLOT page on Facebook.
Original Vintage Photographs Reverend John D. Ruth Bible Garden Georgia Folk Art by Jim Linderman 1995 © Dull Tool Dim Bulb
See also IN SITU: FOLK ART IN PLACE by Jim Linderman Free Preview and Orders HERE
Antique Folk Art Drawing African-American Man, Georgia. Dated 1888 Drawn on an envelope. Collection Jim Linderman
See also the book from Blurb ECCENTRIC FOLK ART DRAWINGS by Jim Linderman available in paperback or affordable instant ebook from Blurb.
Girl with Dog and Stick 19th Century Antique American Folk Art Drawing Watercolor
Collection Jim Linderman
SEE ALSO the Book and Ebook available now ECCENTRIC FOLK ART DRAWINGS: Obscure Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries
Free Preview and Orders CLICK HERE.