Photo Friday: Folk Art

I love folk art. I especially love colorful, naive, wordy, forthright paintings with a definite point of view. It’s not everyone’s cuppa tea I know, but there’s something just so refreshing and entertaining about this kind of art to me. Over the years I’ve collected some pieces I just love and I thought I might share some of them with you guys.                   (And if this doesn’t bore you cross-eyed and you’re remotely interested, maybe on some other slow lovely Friday I could show you some more…?)

The first two are from an artist named Jim Gary Phillips. Here’s a brief bio I found on the internet:

Born in 1951 in western Kentucky, Jim Gary Phillips has worked a variety of odd jobs most of his life—factory, construction, surveying, pipeline; usually 2 or 3 jobs at a time just to make ends meet.

His first artistic influence came from his grandfather who spent winters making walking sticks. More recently, he was inspired by Minnie Adkins, a well-known woodcarver from Eastern Kentucky. Jim Gary had seen a picture of one of her foxes and, unable to afford one himself, he opted instead to copy it in paint. Soon afterward, he had the opportunity to travel around the Southeast and almost by accident stumbled into several artists’ studios and eventually ended up at the Folk Art Center in Morehead, Kentucky. After that visit, Jim Gary realized “you don’t copy what somebody else has done. You paint what comes to your own self. So I forgot about copying Minnie’s fox and started painting my own ideas.”

Jim Gary Phillips’ ideas include memories from his childhood, Kentucky musicians, local legends and religious themes. Of his religious works, Jim Gary says, “About half of my pictures are religious in nature. The ones like Lazarus I can only paint if I hear them preached to me by a man of the gospel. I’ve tried painting religious pictures without hearing the gospel but by reading the bible or looking at other pictures and so on. But I can’t do it. This may sound a little odd but I can only paint what I can see in my head and feel in my heart while under the gospel. Now I don’t believe I can deliver the gospel with my paintings; that can only come through the work of God and I am not a preacher. I just paint what comes to me and maybe get somebody to think about it.”

His paintings always have a lot of text which can be hard to see, so I copied the words under each picture.

“Preacherman Stepping Out in Faith”

“When they called for prayer his voice rose over the crowd     he prayed for mercy and faith and guidance     he prayed for the lost and he prayed for the little church     he prayed for love and charity and he prayed for hope and understanding     while the singers sang amazing grace he studied his Bible      then he stood before the crowd and read about Nicodemus and Jesus     then he read about the pale rider     then he layed his Bible down and he stepped out in faith     when he got in the spirit he preached in the fire and the holy ghost     there was power in his words he rejoiced in the mighty love of God      when the Spirit left his hands were clean and he sat down”

“Cocktails Ruint My Happy Home”

“happy hour-   i had it all     good wife    2 great kids    great huge home    big fine automobile    big job   pocket full of money”

The next artist is my personal favorite!  His name is Norris Hall, and here’s his bio:

Norris Hall is one of Middle Tennessee’s most commissioned artists. His work features a kaleidoscope of whimsical characters in the form of animals and other colorful images which have been displayed in galleries, museums and fine craft and gift shops coast to coast. The Austin Peay State University graduate began his career in the picturesque Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, in Gatlinburg. It was at that time Hall developed his brand of artistic vision. In 1983 Hall met his wife Linda. In 1987, they decided to devote themselves full time to the world of art and began churning out all manners of expression, including paintings, painted wood sculpture, prints and murals, along with furniture, clocks and other functional home and office accessories.

Hall has completed a vast number of public and private commissioned pieces, including a project for Disneyland Paris where Hall designed and painted three 25-foot “Nashville Cats” sculptures that were installed atop Thunder Mountain roller coaster ride. Hall was also commissioned by the state of Tennessee to design two new automobile license plates. The proceeds from the sale of the “Art Tags” benefit Tennessee arts programs. Hall is a member of the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists and Stones River Crafts Association. He resides with his wife Linda in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

About 20 years ago I stumbled onto his work in a small folk art gallery in Bell Buckle, TN. The gallery owner loved that I was so entranced with his paintings, so she actually took me to her apartment upstairs to show me some pieces of furniture that Norris had painted for her. I went nuts over it, and immediately started trying to come up with something he could paint at my house. I decided on my kitchen cabinet doors, and when I contacted Norris he agreed to come look at them. He is such a nice guy, quiet and unassuming and he got kind of intrigued with the idea of creating scenes on my cabinets, so he agreed to do it for a ridiculously low price. They were amazing! When we sold our old house and moved to this one, leaving my kitchen ‘gallery’ was the hardest thing for me. I even had my realtor tell the new owner’s realtor that if they ever re-did the kitchen, I would truly love to have them back, but frankly, I didn’t expect that to ever happen. One day a couple of years ago my friend Lynne who lives in my old neighborhood drove by and saw construction workers swarming the house. Being Lynne, she marched in the front door and asked the contractor where the kitchen doors were and if he knew that the previous owners of the house really wanted them back! She left a note stating that for him to give to the homeowners, and eventually, those sweet people not only contacted me, but just GAVE me all of my doors back! I have hung them as art in my dining room, and they make me smile every time I see them. Madi and Charlotte were so thrilled to get them back, they literally grew up surrounded by his art and that is a very fond part of their childhood memories. (I can photograph them for you if you want to see them!)

Anyway, this is one of his pieces that was made for an exhibit the Tennessee Art Commission did in downtown Nashville. Russ and I went to see it, and called him to see if it was for sale– we had actually just returned from a trip to Europe, and we had lost our luggage, so it was just too perfect! Though you can’t tell from this picture, the painting is HUGE, almost 7 feet tall. It’s hung in my entry hall, high on the wall over the entrance into my dining room.

“The Johnsons were afraid their European vacation would be ruined when they discovered, due to a mix-up at the airport, they had been given luggage from the Johansen Brothers Circus instead of their own. Oh no.”

I’ll end this with another piece from our entry hall. This is by an artist named Bebo, here’s a little bit about him:

Bebo (a.k.a. John Paul Daniel) is an untrained artist (he describes himself as an “outsider artist”) who began making critters out of old barn wood in 1993. He had a stack of old wood from a shed demolition stacked in his yard and one morning he got up and started cutting out critters with a hatchet. The first pieces were very primitive.

The name Bebo came to him in a dream a few months after he started creating his folk art critters. He dreamt someone said to him “You are Bebo”…and he took the name as his folk art name.

Bebo uses old barn-wood- oak, poplar, maple, ash, whatever is available in the area around his home in Tennessee. Some pieces are small, others as large as 10 to 12 feet long. He paints mostly in primary colors using enamel tractor paint and the resulting pieces can be hung either indoors or out. Bebo makes use of the natural lines and imperfections of each piece of wood in shaping his critters so each piece, while following a general theme, is unique. Most of his critters are fish, reptiles, lizards and snakes, although some of them might have appeared in a similar dream to the one where he got his name.

We have adopted this saying as the Official Taff Family Motto, so I hung it in a prominent place we all pass by every day. It’s absolutely true for us– see if you agree with the sentiment…

16 Responses

  1. jensings

    Do you have any Howard Finster? He’d be right up your alley.

  2. tori

    I do!
    One small piece, an angel with some text on it that I got at the Country Music Hall of Fame gift shop years ago… I do love him.

  3. bettyrwoodward

    I love them and yes we would like to see the doors, please. We have a man associated with our church who is a Jamaican artist. I think you would like his art. Stuart has encouraged him and now some of his work is being used locally for the 2012 Olympics. His work is all words but each letter is in the form of an animal or other item. Sometimes they need explaining but are then really interesting.

  4. Tweets that mention » Photo Friday: Folk Art | babybloomr --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tori Taff. Tori Taff said: It's Folk Art Friday! And yes, I just made that up! […]

  5. joyfull-mom

    Yes, we need to see pictures of the cabinet doors! :)



  7. tori

    OK, I’ll totally show the doors! (I’m so easy.) But it will take me a few days to get them all photographed and labeled– there are a lot of them!


    Well, thaaaaaank yeeeeew! In the meantime, my dad was a terrific artist, got some of his stuff hanging on the walls at home, I’m gonna try to take a few pics & send it. Not quite a great w/ a camera phone as Madi are!!!

  9. meb

    I LOVE the Trust God or Go Crazy – it so fits where we are at in our lives right now.

  10. jonny

    Some days it seems easier, more natural, maybe even more comfortable, just to go crazy.

  11. Tanya Sykes

    Tori, I LOVE all of these, especially the “Cocktails ruint my happy home.” You are so fun and have a great sense of style!

    People, I have seen the cabinet doors–a zillion years ago–it’s been SO long since Russ and Tori invited us over– *hint hint* They are AWESOME! Tori I’m so glad you got them back. When you guys moved to your new house I wondered, “hmm, wonder if she took her cabinet doors with her?” What can I say, they made and impression!

  12. jonny

    OK, if they if they made a zillion years ago impression on Tanya that she STILL remembers, I guess I just HAVE to grab the next flight out your way Tori and check them out myself first hand!! Oh, wait. I should probably wait for the volcanic ash to clear first = / Bummer!

  13. tori

    delivered– Love to see some of your dad’s art!

    meb– So nice to meet you guys face to face! And yeah, there’s a reason that’s our family motto… :)

    jonny– I totally agree! That’s why I need a big red and blue sign right in my face reminding me I have another choice!

    Tanya Sykes– Girl, you have a standing invitation to our house any dang time you can! Might be easier to get you here than it is to get *ALL* of us together at the same time– we’re not doing too well in that department, are we?!

    jonny– Grab that flight, baby!

  14. jonny

    Hello again! I went to work on some lyrics for a couple things I have coming up shortly & in the process of grabbing some paper to scribble the words down on, I ran across a poem I started working on around five years ago! OK, they probably come off more like lyrics, but… Well… I guess if you close one eye while reading them you may not notice any different = ) I did a little tweaking with what was there, and for those interested, here goes…

    At The Feet Of His Name

    So many paths that one could take
    To be where Truth rests
    So many choices one should make
    To be where Kindness thrives

    So many, so busy, missing the best part
    Struggling to be something they ought not
    With fingers absently touching the trim of His cloak
    I patiently wait, listening at the feet of His name

    A desire to be more than right
    To be where Peace rests
    A conversion into a genuine Light
    To be where Love thrives

    So many, so busy, missing the best part
    Struggling to be something they ought not
    With fingers absently touching the trim of His cloak
    I patiently wait, listening at the feet of His name

  15. delightedabroad

    Wow, jonny, this is absolutely fantastic!! It deeply touched me.

  16. jonny

    Well, in hindsight I probably should’ve also capitalized the “n” in “name.” No disrespect intended. Really glad it worked for you though, delighted! = )

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