Some visitors to this little corner of the blog-swamp know that Sheila (AKA Tuffy P around here) and I have a modest collection of artwork by folk artists or outsider artists or self-taught artists – call them what you will. Many these artists come from the southern United States, although we have some Canadian work as well. We sometimes purchase artwork through the Slotin Auction. This auction is located in Georgia, but through the wonders of internet technology, we can bid online live during the auction.
One of the works in our little collection is a cement tablet-like head by a fellow named Burgess Dulaney.
Dulaney lived from 1914 to 2001. Most of the work he made was not with cement but rather with mud, much of which came from pits on his property in Mississippi.
Some time ago, Sheila posted a photo of our Dulaney cement work on Instagram (a platform she no longer subscribes to, curiously enough), and was contacted by a fellow named Terry Nowell. Mr. Nowell, who lives in Texas, has a definitive collection of Dulaney’s work. He knew Dulaney and visited him many times over the years. It was work from Nowell’s collection that formed a 2003 exhibition of Dulaney’s work at COCA Anheuser-Busch Gallery in St. Louis. Terry Nowell very kindly sent us the catalog for that exhibition which featured article, Simple Beauty, and many photographs of Dulaney’s work, a photo of his cabin and a photo of the artist himself.
Burgess Dulaney was very prolific. He made as many as 900 works, most of which from unfired clay. We didn’t know anything about Dulaney or his work when we bought the cement work. Sheila saw it at the auction and was struck by its power and intensity. We’re grateful to Terry Nowell for contacting Sheila and sharing his love for Dulaney’s work.
Curiously, Dulaney is not the only artist in the American south who worked with mud. In Alabama, Jimmy Lee Sudduth made mud paintings. We have two of Sudduth’s paintings hanging in our home.
Although Sheila and I are both well versed in the “fine art” tradition, we share a love for work created by self-taught artists. We’ve come across some tremendously powerful painting and sculpture over the years, which has taught us a lot about image-making. I think our love for this so-called folk art is reflected in the mosaic butterflies, bears, birds and so on which we make together.