Asa "Ace" Moore African-American outsider artist who created erotic and sexual works in ink and pencil during the 1930s. Certainly in private. Personal visions of his own, and produced during a time when even African-American's questioned their own beauty. As such, these are likely among the earliest depictions of sexuality and eroticism by a Black artist in the United States. It took as long as 1974 for Vogue Magazine to put an African-American model on their cover, and even Hefner resisted until 1971. Racism was so extreme and brutal in the 1930s, images of Black sexuality were virtually unknown. In 1968, when James Brown sang "Say it Loud, I'm Black and Proud" he was literally convincing his own race of their worth...and that was 30 years after these drawings were created. Some are far too risque to allow here...but Mr. Moore created at least 38 works. Some appear on the Museum of Uncut Funk site HERE
Drawings by Asa "Ace" Moore circa 1935 Collection Jim Linderman
FLASH GORDON GROWS A BEARD and Drawing Outside the Line. Original period crayon embellishment to Flash Gordon coloring book 1968 Collection Jim Linderman
A Miniature Clay Hat Celebrating the William McKinley Presidential inauguration in 1897. Stamped around is the inscription, appropriately, "Mckinley's Hat" and with the remnants of a red ribbon. Guess what! Amazingly, there is a FILM of Mckinley's parade! Hmm...looks pretty crowded there Trump. Maybe the attendees were secretly paid by George Soros!
McKinley was not allowed to serve his full term due to an assassination. In fact, maybe the clay hat was produced then, to mourn the loss?
As with all presidential terms, McKinley's run as President had ups and downs...but at least the wasn't Donald Trump. Furthermore, his Vice President was the remarkable Theodore Roosevelt, who was twice the man of Mike Pence AND one with the insight to favor the environment for future generations.
William McKinley souvenir Miniature Clay Hat Celebrating William McKinley inauguration (or passing?) 1897 - 1901. Collection Jim Linderman
Maybe the Indianapolis, Indiana Photography Studio "National Studio" doesn't seem to appear on the "We Do History" website of the Indiana Historical Society because the photographer was inept? FOCUS! A circa 1935 photo stamped on the reverse "National Studio, Indianapolis, Indiana, Illinois Building" but I can find no other documentation. Still, this 8 x 10 original glossy would indicate the photographer was functioning enough to get photo gigs.
Sheesh. A whole stage of dicey and politically questionable folks! Minstrels, Cross-Dressers, rural Fiddlers and a group of somewhat flamboyant male dancers in mini-skirts. What the hell is going ON here?
Whatever this is, I reckon Indiana owns it. We can blame one of the participants for moving his head (one of the "end" performers, where they usually stood in minstrel photos) but still one would think a professional photographer would take time to focus. Would you pay for a school portrait of your kid with this quality?
Now, as for the content? What can I say? In this case, pictures don't lie and they don't sugarcoat the past. Whatever wing ding this was, at the least we can suspect the state of our new vice president was a happening place back then. WTF? Did they all DANCE after the photo was taken?
Now a good portion of the country had minstrel shows, but there does seem to be an inordinate amount of minstrel activity in Indiana. In fact, the very same Indiana Historical Society which hasn't yet documented the National Studio has a nice spread for the sheet music "Down at the Old Minstrel Show" which was published in Indiana. Ahh, yes. I do love to hear them play the songs of yesterday.
Now, as for all the apparent happy cross-dressers here? I dunno. There were lots of men who made a living performing as women in minstrel shows. HERE are a dozen of them! One of them is described as the "best genteel wench that ever trod the boards" and his passing with late-stage syphilis is noted! But these fellows are probably just local yokels having a bizarre laugh. The ones in pixie costumes on the right? I just don't know. Either they are professionals, or they got there very early for make-up.
Seriously, I cannot claim Indiana was more racist (or more dressed in drag) than any other state when it comes to entertainment.
Original photograph circa 1935? Stamped on reverse "National Studio, Indianapolis, Indiana" Collection Jim Linderman
Large Group of 19th Century Folk Art Drawings discovered underneath clippings in a scrapbook (!) Each original is 11" x 13" collection Jim Linderman
See ALSO the book Eccentric Folk Art Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries available for preview and ordering HERE
Outsider Art Fair 2017 Bonus Post Vernon, Alabama Early 1990's
Photographs by Jim Linderman
Free preview and purchas the book IN SITU: American Folk Art in Place by the author HERE
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