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Stories to Tell, Memories to Keep: Folk Art in the South
Clementine Hunter, Doing Laundry, circa 1963. Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas E. Fulmer.
AUGUSTA, GA.-Stories to Tell, Memories to Keep: Folk Art in the South, a selection of dozens of objects from the museum’s collection of Southern folk art, opens to the public at the Morris Museum of Art on May 16, 2009. Many of the region’s leading folk artists, including Lonnie Holley, Charley Kinney, Nellie Mae Rowe, Mary Proctor, Bill Traylor, Clementine Hunter, Lorenzo Scott, Minnie Evans, and, of course, Georgia’s own Howard Finster and George Andrews, are represented in the exhibition.

“The present exhibition reveals that the Morris has one of the strongest collections of folk art in the Southeast,” commented Kevin Grogan, director and curator of the Morris Museum of Art. “And we are very pleased to offer the public an opportunity to view these extraordinary works of art—more than half of which have never been shown by the museum before.”

Folk art varies widely and is sometimes referred to as outsider art, visionary art, or self-taught art, but this range of descriptive terms does little to describe the inventive and imaginative ways in which each artist expresses deeply personal ideas in visual language. Usually without formal training and with little regard for marketing, self-promotion, or current cultural trends, folk artists adhere to an innate personal vision. Characteristically, they use such common, readily accessible materials as crayons, markers, house paint, and glitter to produce paintings and drawings on recycled or discarded materials and sculpture out of found objects, putting mundane materials to fresh and ingenious uses and creating new work out of old.

The artists represented in this exhibition uniformly display self-confidence in expressing spiritual, patriotic, biographical, and nostalgic messages that resonate with viewers young and old. Many started producing art late in life when retirement provided more time for art, while a few turned to art-making when convalescing after an illness or accident and when seeking an expressive outlet after suffering a traumatic personal loss.

The themes evident in the mainly narrative work on view include spirituality; gratitude for home, hearth, health, and family; a longing for simpler times past; and the celebration of life through the creation of figures, some human and some animal. These themes are captured and expressed in many different ways—sometimes by covering the entire surface with paint or materials, sometimes by adding text to images to clarify the artists’ point, intentions, and feelings.

Stories to Tell, Memories to Keep: Folk Art in the South remains on view at the Morris Museum of Art through August 30, 2009. For more information, please visit the museum’s web site at

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