James J. P. Scott African-American Folk Art Totems, Lafitte Louisiana c. 1992 Photographs Jim Linderman
James J. P. Scott African-American Folk Art Totems, Lafitte Louisiana c. 1992 Photographs by Jim Linderman
You might have heard the term "memory painter" as a slightly disparaging reference to artists who recreate pleasant rural scenes from the past in a folky manner. Grandma Moses comes to mind first, of course, but there are many more with varying degrees of skill.
Mary Drake Coles was a true memory painter. A successful artist who upon being diagnosed with glaucoma began practicing to remember how to paint. To this day there is no real cure for the disease. Some progress quickly, others delay blindness with prescription eyedrops and surgery to relieve pressure in the eye. Still, it is a diagnoses one wouldn't like to hear. Blind Artist is not a common phrase.
"I began trying to paint from memory as early as I could, while I still had some of my vision and could see what I was creating" she said. She established unchanging positions for her colors and her brushes. The first attempts were dire, but she persisted. After several years of practice her vision was taken away fully, but she had developed an abstract style based on remembered realism. As of 1964, it is reported she had seven one-woman shows in NYC, three of which were held after she was sightless.
Work by the artist is hard to find. My attention was drawn by seeing an eBay listing for a group of her works. Several photos are cribbed from the auction. A wonderful film profile was posted several years ago by Legacy Connections Films.
Mary Drake Coles from Legacy Connections Films on Vimeo.
See also Martha Vinyard Association HERE
and L. A. Brown Photography HERE
Photographs (top) from article by Mel Stein from the National Insider February 18, 1964
Listing on eBay HERE
A real photo postcard from the turn of the century depicts three children with odd dresses. The woman in charge is "Mrs. Davis" and all three youngsters have different last names. Each has a small number written on them, the corresponding names are written on the back. My first thought was they they could be orphans. Early visitors to Japan? Any guesses welcome.
Real Photo Postcard c. 1900 - 1930. Collection Jim Linderman
A pair of interesting drawings by African-American Quilter Sarah Mary Taylor of Yazoo City, Mississippi. Circa 1993. Known widely for her quilts, I suspect she may have done several hundred drawings before passing on. These are surprising for their unusual form. Most of the drawings I have seen were designs based on her standard, repeated quilt figures. Hands, human figures and animals. I've always wondered if anyone has her original templates for quilting…and if she even used them! Free-hand pieces here represent a house (with a figure inside tucked under a quilt?) and numerous irregular squares. If Ms. Taylor made a "house" quilt, it would look more like this drawing than the traditional quilter's house form or pattern. Lots of crosshatching. The floating figure on the other piece? A melon abstraction within four corners. Cosmogram?
Ms. Taylor was born near Betonia, Mississippi in 1916. A cook, a nanny and a field hand. Also from Betonia at the same time? Skip James. A blues musician of staggering talent who would have been performing around the area at the same time. Sarah would have been 14 at the peak of his depression-era career. Betonia had a population of less than 200 in 1900, and has only 500 now. Could she have missed him busking? He recorded a dozen or so sides in 1931 then went missing until musician John Fahey and others located him in the 1960s.
This is deep Delta. Betonia is right down highway 49 from Yazoo. I wish I had asked her if she remembered Skippy James. Both come from the same place, after all. The musician has the same root as the artist. Same well.
The drawings are now, as far as I know, in private hands. The one I gave my avid-quilting mother is lost.
Two drawings by Sarah Mary Taylor circa 1993 Private collection
Bettie Page by Rudolph Rossi Original 8 x 10 photograph tinted by hand c. 1953
Collection Jim Linderman / Dull Tool Dim Bulb
Antique Folk Art House Model of medical gauze and plaster. Constructed over medical supply boxes. 13" tall. Circa 1930 - 1940. Thanks to Box Lot