the tent revival of art

the charming bandit at  fink 

On friday night betty and i attended a tent revival of art; a reunion with a pantheon of southern saints and icons at the slotin folk fest.

Jesus, Elvis, Robert Johnson, Hank, the Devil, snake handlers (left: randy tobias pottery ), face jugs, penitentes, circus freaks and every stripe of wooden and metal creature are alive and well in this concrete cathedral to outsider art.

"outsider" now seems less about isolation and lack of exposure to formal art forms and training and more about savvy business people and freedom loving individuals who want to be independent of middlemen and at liberty to express themselves creativly in every aspect of their lives. there is an exquisite vibe of enterprising spirit here; people who have figured out that the journey is the art and the lifestyle its reward.  i found the art, for the most part, to be more engaging than a years worth of scholarly art exhibits that have often left me indifferent and bored.

c.m.laster in his art shack

C. M Laster's art shack was the quintessential southern art shrine with art made from discarded housing materials, busted up toys, ouija boards, old signs, and whatever he could find. found this great shot of his dog in elvis drag at lasters art shack website and bookmarked my next bed and breakfast destination too; an art trailer in his back yard.

I bought this fine piece from the laster art shack, because one can never be reminded often enough of this simple truism. its nice to find that there is still one place left on earth where moral relativism hasnt crowded out all notions of sin. folk art hell is traditional; lakes of fire; devils. fine art hell is living in the oppressive state of america under the bush regime or not being properly celebrated for your vegan pubic hair installation.

at the red truck gallery booth there were some amazing quilted valentines by chris roberts-antieau to blues icons, boxers, hussies, as well as a series of circus poster like pieces by bryan cunningham constructed of canvas pulled and suspended with canned soda pull tabs over a box like construction.

i liked the lucha libre one featuring a wrestler with a snake man surface. the strings holding the image worked out well visually suggesting a wrestling ring. a friend of betty's told me about a great lucha libre book printed on cheap paper with pulpy illustrations...but that in the center were full color portraits of various luchadors posing in their living rooms. ive got to get that.

also at red truck was a case with an odd parade of sculptural figures including this elephant pulling a rolling tank of sea monkeys. i loved the mission statement of the gallery which was to define a group of artists that they really believed in, and to follow them for their entire career.

jeremy abernathy and jerry culum

i ran into atlanta art critic, fellow north florida native and poet extraordinaire jerry culum and new atlanta art critic and freelancer jeremy abernathy of Ghostmap outside of one of my favorite discoveries of the evening...the trio of canadian artists that are "minivan". looking at the work by Casey McGlynn i commented that in my own work i needed to relax the hell up, to which jeremy replied that was sound advice all the way around. jeremy, like many of us, is a beneficiary of the new egalitarian approach to publishing, though sorting out how one might make a living this way is still unclear.

casey mcglynn

McGlynn's work was highly personal: one was this painting of the initial rejection by his now girlfriend. the girlfriend was portrayed in this and all the paintings as the bird girl, and he, another interpretation of the bald everyman. the backgrounds were rich with expressive figures and sheets of notebook paper with red marks and personal symbolism.

i was really impressed with the paintings like the elephant below. they were an odd taxonomy of animals ordered in boxes and painted roadways; figures scratched and layered and layered yet again. sometimes i would discover another creature tucked in somewhere that was barely perceptible at first glance. the whole piece was very alive with movement. if i had money to burn, i would have started a bonfire here.

also at minivan was clint griffin who's mixed media pieces were dense with scenes of figures in these weird psycho dramas. one figure had a spiral on her head which looked like padded head gear. she appeared to kneel upon another figure while each covered their noses, a brushy head made of fire and an encounter with a cheerleader in a stairwell were remembered in the same space. there was more behind that even, which reminded me of the other pieces he exhibited. he had stacked bundles of found photographs about 3 inches thick and put an altered photo on top; edited by painting over sections to create another reality that seemed post biological disaster with its barren landscapes and noseless faces.

on the color front, Karl Mullen's drawings made with pure powdered pigments, wax and walnut oil were show stoppers. his process gave the surface of the paper an antique heavy feel but maintaining rich color and velvety surface. There is a ton of folk art that features these kind of hairless every-men with tent like bodies; in this case the figures looked like a series of self-portraits though the artist statement categorizes them as musicians, ghosts and whiskey kings inspired by irish poetry myth and folklore.

one of the drawings was a Klimtian riff on the woman cloaked in a decorative coat; now a balding king possessing a good bit more intensity than the *possible* inspiration. interesting that for all his linear vibrancy, this king was contained in a form reminiscent of a sarcophagus reminding me of egyptian kings trapped under glass in a museum.

anthony pack , a former creative at shoebox (hallmark) greetings had left that job behind and started urban folk art. all of his sculptures were excellent and filled with wit and humor. I loved the wreaths constructed of plastic toys and decorations surrounded by sunrays of cut and patterned tin.

I had a hard time selecting a character from anthony's wall of characters. i liked the freeze queen (far left) and the zig zag man but in the end i purchased the paprika man (left: hanging in my kitchen window) mainly because we dont have any damn shelves to place another object on.

i also bought this Randy tobias pot and wanted to get a devil too but just could not afford it. Betty had better discipline than i did, but she expressed non buyers remorse on the way home.

at fink i found an astounding array of products from 3 dollar drawings on sugar packets and plastic bottle caps to ten dollar tiny pieces of his soul:
he also got my attention because he had designed some toys and had them licensed which yielded him a monthly royalty check. he told me he had been self supporting on art for nine years and was having a great time at work each day. The piece Gus Fink is holding was a collaborative work made with his friend the art bandit.

I wanted to buy a piece by matt sesow represented by the alcove right here in decatur, an inside the perimeter neighborhood of Atlanta. both betty and i respond to these new school basquiat style drawings probably because our work is so precise and orderly. this drawing was similar in content to the randy tobias piece i had just purchased, and to several other grimacing characters in the show. they all reminded me of pee-wee herman's anxiety expression. this ubiquitous grimace suggested an amused southern version of the munchian scream; each specific to the makers experiences and observations but universal in capturing the zeitgeist of 21st century apprehension.

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Blogger moi said...

Awesome, blossom! When I am free of work in September, I am going art gallery hopping to refuel my soul, for sure.

Randy Tobias's work reminds me a little of Todd Shelby's. I could kick myself for not buying one of his pieces when we were in Silver City last year. Now, I'm afraid of breakage in the shipping, but this is what I'd buy if I weren't:

8:26 AM  
Blogger Aunty Belle said...

Ho! Wow...I gotta come back to this one an' go real real slow...racin' mah own deadlines this week...(and a hurricane) ..but I WILL BE BACK!!

(li'l piece of mah soul...aw....!)

9:09 AM  
Blogger Anonymous Boxer said...

I need to get my arse to Seattle's montly "First Thursday" which is when all of the artists and galleries converge to sell/mingle/etc. The sign that reads "Tiny pieces of my soul $10.00" says everything (to me) about why people make art and then the process of making a living. Moi once wrote a great post about everyone needing to buy art and she's right when she says buying art refuels the soul as much as it fuels the soul of the artist.

Thanks for taking us along on your day.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Middle Ditch said...

It seems to me that you had a very interesting and fun day. I loved all that art and again it was an interesting read and a lovely tour around the fair.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love it

some of these
are just gorgeous

it's like the difference between shooping at garage sales and thrift stores vs wal-mart... you always find the coolest stuff when you have no idea about what you're going to find!

great post, k9


12:40 PM  
Blogger Edi said...

Awww thanks! you look like you had fun. Well I'm getting a very nice photography camera soon so we'll see where life takes us. I can't wait. I'm seeing Ray LaMontagne in November for my bday.

See yah! Oh and thanks for picking me up at 4am years ago when I saw Citizen Cope in downtown Atlanta. You are a rockin woman and a hard core driver.

5:01 PM  
Blogger NYD said...

Spending time in an environment of creativity must be very good for your spirits.

God thing that you got to take a piece of it home with you.

5:26 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

moi: i see a similar sensibility between the two. im going to have one of the pieces from the second photo shipped to me....lots and lots of bubble wrap...

i bet fall evenings in NM are magical. and i know you get great art shows too. id like to come out there - i have not even been to santa fe!

aunty: good! you would have really enjoyed the characters at this show. i would love to read one of your works of fiction based on this show

anonymous boxer: you know it was a good show when i am dying to get back to your my own studio and work! grrherhaha to your soul fuel. thats good

5:36 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

middle ditch: thanks! it was very green too. it was a showcase of recycling ingenuity.

/t: exactly. i love junk shops too. one guy had found these drawings in just that kind of place. they dubbed the anonymous artist the southern jester. the drawings were on such diverse subjects as a mexican stand off between he and his mule or a fight with bundles of sticks were the weapons.

i have a box of junk ive bought. you know how that goes "im gonna do something with it"....grrrherhaha

edi: i look forward to a great review with photos on ray lamontagne

nyd: yes it was. i had been living at the hermitage. grrrherhaha. youre right! that pot is like having a piece of the experience.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Mayden' s Voyage said...

The pottery piece reminds me of something I saw on the Antiques Roadshow from the Civil War era- and was a huge clay jug (called slipware, if I'm not mistaken) depicting a slave (and actually made by a slave I think)- anyhooo- it was practically given away at a yard sale and ended up being worth over 250K because it was an important piece of history, on many fronts.

Loved seeing all of this through your eyes- and with the benefit of your commentary :)

Hugs :)

6:38 PM  
Blogger The Troll said...

Happy Mute Monday! Uhmmm...Folk Art Visit Recap Tuesday? I'd like Freeze Queen and Paprika Man if they were functional in some manner. I gawk at stuff at Art Fairs but I usually only buy things like clocks, thermometers, benches, etc...

6:36 AM  
Blogger moi said...

Ooo, come visit! I'll fix you enchiladas and margaritas and then we'll put on dark sunglasses and cowboy boots and go make fun of Santa Fe.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Edi said...

AHHHH I'm so excited for it to be here! I told my friends about it too. Oh I'm so excited to have a cool piece of art by you that really means something special to me. That's awesome!

And yes you are the cutest thing ever!

8:51 AM  
Blogger American Hill BIlly said...


I stopped in, and read the poem from the last blog. It definitely reminds me of Guatemala. Oaxaca is almost part of there anyways.

I liked the first artist that you had up. That artist not only incorporated their energy, but the energy of all the components in the art. Tent art? Cool Idea.

United In Peace

1:50 PM  
Blogger The Big Shamu said...

Thank you so much for this. I love this type of accessible art. While I wish the Tent would come to Kansas City I do have to crow a bit because I get Anthony Pack all year long. His stuff is so much fun. You want another piece let me know and I will help send it your way.
Time to let the art run free from your fingers.

3:49 PM  
Blogger foam said...

i luv it, i luv it, i luv it...!!!!
some of the stuff i have hanging around is considered outsider art..

4:55 PM  
Blogger Ruela said...

fantastic art.

Elvis is alive ;)

4:40 AM  
Blogger iamnot said...

Well, since I don't understand most of it, it must be art...right?

1:27 PM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

I, too, like the elephants the most. I think lately I am fixated on them, for they are so symbolic if the land my boyfriend comes from. Hermes has silk scares with elephants on them as part of their Indian fantasy series...its gorgeous.

3:21 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

gotta start painting again... Forgot how relaxing it is...

5:53 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

mayden! great to see you out and about. ive seen some of those famous face jugs..the meader family comes to mind with about 5 generations making the classic jug. so great to see you.

troll: their function is to make me happy? are you kidding me? grrrerhahaha i could also kill an intruder with the bottle man.

moi: delta is ready if i am. id love too. maybe next year.

edi: i hope you like it in real life as much as on screen sweat pea.

hilbilly: thanks! yeah, i wish i could have stayed in oaxaca...it was an amazing place. sorry ive been scarce i am overwhelmed with gigs right now.

shamu: thats right! anthony was from kansas city. i just read an article about how KC has a big art studio that holds 15 artsts for free all they have to do is give 2 pieces a year in exchange! wow! its a good art town ive heard. what about food? is it a good food town?

foamy: yeah, like those sticks you photographed? i bet you have a ton of cool things. post on it sometime!

ruela: several were alive in fact. even a female version.

iamnot: is understanding necessary?

thursdaynext: they are good. hermes and elephants! i like that. im going to look it up. ive always liked the hermes english saddles but i can never ride again so i guess i can save the kajillion dollars it would cost.

PhoKid: i bet youd be great too. youve got a very good eye on the photography.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Abernathy said...

Dear you.

I forgot your real name. You should share it with me whenever we meet again.

I just added you to my link bar. Nice post, here. Thanks for the photo too. I can't see myself enough. : )


10:42 AM  
Blogger ANNA-LYS said...

Long live creativity!
and You Rotty is one of them ;-)

(still laughing at Your comment)

12:16 PM  
Blogger foam said...

those sticks were my sculpture .. ;) ..

2:46 PM  
Blogger The Big Shamu said...

Yes that nearly free art space is recent, haven't had a chance to get down there. Nice art scene, very vibrant with all the Hallmark artists AND the Kansas City Arts Institute students and graduates.
Food-wise? Better than it used to be, finally reaching past it's insistence at being only a BBQ town. Bluestem and Justus Drugstore are kicking the cowtown image into the dust. We have one of Lydia Bastich's restaurants. Chef Debbie Gold is back at the American Restaurant. Strouds is open again on the Kansas side if you like traditional fried chicken. A vibrant collection of farmer's markets on the weekends. Plenty of CSAs. Of course if you have to have some BBQ, well there are certainly plenty of choices plus some fine steak joints.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Doom said...

Should I? I am not sure whether to write this or not. Anyway...

Most of the art shown is the type that freaks me out. I find nothing but revulsion and nightmares from things that are too different. Some Spanish painter was the best of the worst I have seen, so far. Some of this stuff can cause nausea (while eating grubs, raw flesh of beef, certain fish, and other good stuff, and even the idea of eating... other stuff, does not).

I guess it takes a certain type to appreciate it. The art reminds me of jazz, which also is discomforting to my mind. Is that pretty much where the art world is today?

9:49 PM  
Blogger X. Dell said...

(1) The examples of what you call "outsider" art are very interesting. To me, they represent an anti-professionalism aesthetic sought by, say, punk rockers in the 1970s.

And just as punk did, some of these pieces click with me, some of them do not. But that's sort of the point, isn't it?

(2) Hell is on Earth? Anyplace I've been?

7:49 AM  
Blogger Pete Bogs said...

cool stuff!

9:05 AM  
Blogger puerileuwaite said...

You can also have a different kind of tent revival by consuming Viagra and sleeping in the nude. Don't ask me how I know.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Pete Bogs said...

I heard that Elvis Dog (Fig. 4) likes to chew on white cotton panties... tell you what, man!

6:33 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

How's the painting going?

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wish
i could write
like you

¤ ¤ ¤


8:52 PM  
Blogger Aunty Belle said...


Even you can come up fer air, Pup...whar's ya? Sombody put yore nose on the grindstone TOO long.

Come leave me a limerick , Rottie Pup--new contest on Front Porch. Maybe an Hermes Elephant fer a prize (yeah right!) --you and Thursday and Moi can fight over it!!!

P.S. The "pieces of my soul" still tugs at me heart...aw....

5:57 AM  
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4:34 PM  

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