BIRMINGHAM, AL.- The Birmingham Museum of Art, in conjunction with the Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel, opened the doors of a newly designed annex to feature the most comprehensive exhibition of works by Alabama's premier folk artists, including internationally recognized artists Bill Traylor, the Quilters of Gee's Bend, Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Charlie Lucas, Jerry Brown, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Mose Tolliver, Nora Ezell, Yvonne Wells, Benjamin Franklin Perkins and Howard Finster, among others. Alabama, recognized as the epicenter of the 20th-century folk art movement, boasts more folk artists than any other state in the country.
This rich artistic legacy will be celebrated throughout The Year of Alabama Arts, 2007, and will be represented by more than 100 paintings, drawings, sculpture, quilts and pottery. The exhibition, Alabama Folk Art, will be installed in 10,000 square feet of gallery space in the historic Young and Vann Building in downtown Birmingham. The art will be drawn from the Museum's permanent collection and loaned from private collections from within Alabama and without. New objects will rotate into the exhibition during the year to explore multilayered relationships between artists and works.
Gail Andrews, R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, and Emily Hanna, Museum Curator of Art of Africa and the Americas, co-curators of the exhibition, have more than 30 combined years of experience interpreting Alabama art, African-American art and folk art. They bring to the project not only their expertise with the material but also their personal relationships with the artists themselves.
The artists included in this exhibition represent several traditions that have existed in Alabama for generations. Some are self-taught, having received inspiration to create art, but no formal training. Some of these self-taught artists still operate primarily within their home environments; others have exhibited their work nationally and internationally. Other artists belong to a craft tradition that has been passed down through family members, such as the quilters of Gee's Bend and potter Jerry Brown.
"Many critics and art historians have commented on the breadth, diversity and extraordinary artistic merit of this rich tradition and asked what is unique or special about Alabama to have inspired such a flowering of so many artists in one spot," explains Andrews. "There are undoubtedly many factors, some identifiable, some intangible: the rural nature of the state that existed well into the 20th century, the deep roots of family and religion, the strong storytelling and craft traditions, the state's complex history, its landscape, the character of the population that can be both tolerant of the eccentric and resistant to change, have all come together to create an environment conducive to the creation and acceptance of these works of art."
Programs throughout the year will encourage discussion and reflection on the special nature of this state that has nurtured these artists and given rise to their predominance in this field.
The exhibition has been made possible through support from the Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel, the Jefferson County Cultural Alliance and the Birmingham Art Association. Admission to the exhibition and programs is free of charge and open to the public.