Dorothy Shelby is a "primitive folk art" artist who started painting at the age of 64. She paints her memories of growing up in Industry, Texas, the town depicted in the painting above. Church picnics, baptisms, and weddings are just a few of the depictions of her memories in her work. She paints on anything she can get her hands on: glass, paper, canvas, and her favorite, wood. Her work is found in collections all over the US and as far away as London.
I sat down with Dorothy and her daughter one afternoon to talk about her life and its influences on her art. Her grandfather was born in slavery in 1860. After he was grown, he bought a farm in Shelby and settled there. Her family was a farming family although her parents owned a dry cleaning business in Industry when she was growing up. Her mom, in particular, was a strong influence in her life with her prayers filling their lives all the time.
Dorothy always drew. As a little girl she entered a contest in the magazine "Draw Me" and won first place in sketching. In 2008, she decided that she was an artist, went to Hobby Lobby, bought supplies, and started painting like she'd always done it.
The painting above is a representation of a very typical baptism in rural Texas. Dorothy herself was baptized in a tank at the age of 12. The people standing at the top left are her grandparents, painted from an old photograph. The sepia tones are reminiscent of old sepia photographs.
Left image: Dorothy frequently includes herself and her best friend Carolyn in her paintings. Dorothy is the one with plaits facing us. Her mom is the one singing while the girls play ring around a rosie.
Middle image: Weddings were a big celebration and a favorite subject.
Rigth image: Cotton was the major crop in both Shelby and Industry. Dorothy has painted her three brothers in the cotton field.
Dorothy will be be the featured artist at Art Connections Gallery for Second Saturday Soiree on Saturday, May 11, 4-7pm.
As a gallery owner I hear all the time how much people love art, love to come to galleries to see art, want to support artists, but they just "don't have any more room to add any more art". My solution is to suggest that they wear it! And at Art Connections Gallery we have have over 40 artists making wearable art in the form of jewelry, purses and accesories.
Pictured above are three of our artisans who have a passion for what they do and it shows. On the left is jewelry by Cynthia Bloom of Austin, Texas. Her work is inspired by the old-world Czech Bohemian glass and Austrian crystal artisans who inspired avant-garde European designers a century ago. For years, she has collected treasured antique beads, iridescent glass buttons, and rare crystals (many found in original packaging), and infuses these dazzling objets d'art into each of her creations.
The photo in the middle shows examples of screen printed silk scarves made by Kavita Singh of Saratoga, California. She has combined Japanese printing and Chinese brush styles with the French "gutta serti" to create exquisite designs. Kavita has designed clothing for Malaysian royalty and her work has appeared in the White House. Her timeless classics are the essence of modern style with an old world flair. The gallery currently has a lovely collection of her scarves.
On the right are a pair of silk painted earrings by Suzanne Bellows of Florida. Suzanne never intended to design jewelry after her graduation from the University of Florida but began crafting silk jewelry as a way to make ends meet. "What started as a commercial endeavor quickly became a love affair." Each pair of her earrings are a little painting in and of itself. Her use of color and design show her 25 years of experience and can be your very own "art-to-wear".
The artists I have shown above design for the ladies, but we have wearable art for the gentlemen as well from jewelry to wallets and, coming in time for Father's Day, ties.
By the way, I can always help you find room on your walls for more art!
"Plato's text, The Symposium, consists of speeches in praise of Eros by a group of notable men at a banquet. Aristophanes, the comic playwright of ancient Athens, uses his time to explain the origin of our desire. Once upon a time there were three kinds of human beings: male, descended from the sun; female, descended from the earth; and androgynous, with both male and female elements, descended from the moon. Each human being was completely round, with four arms and four legs, two identical faces on opposite sides of a head with four ears. They walked both forwards and backwards and ran by turning cartwheels on their eight limbs, moving in circles like their parents the planets.
The gods on Olympus felt threatened by these unruly and powerful creatures that might someday scale the heavens. The gods debated what to do about these creatures. In the end, Zeus acted and split the humans in half dividing their power.
Aristophanes explained that when we find our other half, we are 'lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy' that cannot be accounted for by a simple appetite for sex, but rather by a desire to be whole again, and restored to our original nature." Tom Suhler
This story in part was the inspiration for the images in the series "The Symposium": ancient humans before and after Zeus' intervention.
What would it be like to live in the clouds?
Moving through them
Sitting on them and in them
Would there be an up or down?
What would your world look like?
What would it look like to observers from the ground?
These are just a few of the ideas that conceived this collection almost 10 years ago. During the last 18 months many different narratives have been explored and and completely different environments have evolved in the studio. All of this done on set without the need for digital manipulation of these images.