Light of the Spirit
Portraits of Southern Outsider Artists
Dramatic photographs uniting the visions of the photographer and of southern self-taught artists
Gathering twenty-one widely known Southern artists from four Southern states, photographer Karekin Goekjian has captured the vital human connections between the creator and the object.
Working with moonlight, twilight, or a touch of flash, Goekjian photographs each artist and his art in the settings where that creative work occurs--the yards, worksheds, and woods of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina.
"Goekjian's photographic art has an intensity that holds its own with self-taught art," says art critic and writer Donald Kuspit. "His photographs have the same aura of direct yet enigmatic statement, conveying the same sense of urgent abstraction and moral emergency. "
From Alabama, Goekjian photographed Thornton Dial, Sr. , Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, W. C. Rice, Jimmy Lee Suddeth, and Mose Tolliver. From Georgia, Howard Finster, Dilmus Hall, Peter Loose, R. A. Miller, Harold Rittenberry, Jr. , Reverend John D. Ruth, and Willie Tarver are included. Mississippi artists included are Burgess Dulaney, A. J. Mohammed, Sulton Rogers and Earl Simmons. And North Carolinians photographed are Benny Carter, James Harold Jennings, Clyde Jones, and Vollis Simpson.
Goekjian's extraordinarily vivid portraits of them in their special environments seem as natural as the clay, metal, wood, and paint these artists use. In a sense Goekjian paints with light. Each portrait produces a surreal effect that parts the curtain on the individual artist's special world and achieves a rare empathy with the subject matter. Drawing on the raw, earthy spirit that infuses these paintings and sculptures, Goekjian creates photos that are works of art in themselves.
Goekjian, a native of Beirut, Lebanon, and a resident of Athens, Georgia, is a photographer whose work has been widely exhibited and is in permanent collections of major international museums.
Robert Peacock, who wrote the artists' biographies and edited this book, has also written Paradise Garden: A Trip through Howard Finster's Visionary World and Sleep: Bedtime Reading. He lives in New York City. Gerard C. Wertkin is the Director of the Museum of Folk Art, New York City, and a professor at New York University.
OUTSIDER ARTISTS IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
"Why do I make art? I don't know why I do art. For fifteen years of my life I wouldn't give you two cents for all the art on earth. I didn't even finger paint when I was in school. "
BENNY CARTER, north carolina
"I PAINT with my brush, 'cause that's why I got it and that brush don't wear out. When I die, the brush dies. "
JIMMY LEE SUDDETH, alabama
"Howard Finster is a second Noah, to reach the world before it is too late. I am having more success in a way than Noah had. The first Noah preached to the world; he didn't get a one of them saved. This is what I am all about here trying to get peace in the world a thousand more years, to live here. "
HOWARD FINSTER, georgia "I always liked to play with mud. I guess I never growed up. "
BURGESS DULANEY, mississippi
"I love to paint because my paintings are beautiful. The president told me so. "
MOSE TOLLIVER, alabama