hat title looks rather stuffy for the fresh and spontaneous paintings of Dorothy Shelby. But that is what we are showing. The title sent me to the web to do a little research.
"Retrospective means looking back. An art exhibit that covers an artist's entire career is called a retrospective because it looks back at the work that artist has produced over many years." (vocabulary.com/dictionary) Dorothy is showing her very first painting done at age 64 and another done within days of the first one and some done last week as well as others throughout the years in between.
"Folk art" is fairly simply defined as "art made by the common people, notably from rural areas." (Encyclopedia of Art History) Yep, that sounds like Dorothy, although there is nothing common about this extraordinary woman and artist. Of course, the discussion of folk art on the web goes much beyond simple but htis definition serves us here.
"Primitive" is another rather simple concept about art that gets pretty complex in the art essays. However, in general, primitive art is considered to be a "part of a culture, linked up with the history of the culture and with the history of the people. Consequently, we should view primitive art as merely a general term covering a variety of historical phenomena; the products of different races, mentalities, temperaments, historical events, and influences of environment." (Encyclopedia of Art History)
When Dorothy picked up that first paintbrush to become the artist that she knew she was, she joined a long line of artists who have painted in a primitive folk art style. Some were academically trained like Matisse. Many more were self taught: Rousseau, Frida Kahlo, Grandma Moses, and Clementine Hunter.
However, all of these fancy art words don't really matter when you stand in front of the wall of Dorothy's art and see her life and her memories in every painting. And maybe recognize parts of your own memories: your own baptism, your dad talking about picking cotton, quilts that your grandma made, chickens in your own yard. And I think that is the important thing to find in a piece of art--your own connection.
Join us tomorrow to celebrate Dorothy and her art.
The pieces below are (left to right, top row) Rousseau, Kahlo, Grandma Moses. Bottom row Clementine Hunter
Houston Llew's work in enameling is based on his belief that meaningful art is about emotion. Thus, every Spiritile created reflects a piece of our story. These icons stretch our memory and bring to mind the people we love, the things we cherish, and the passions we pursue. When collected, Spiritiles become a montage of moments that make us smile, laugh, remember, and dare to dream.
Each season, Houston releases new tiles. The summer collection reminds of us of the season that asks us to create something new and embrace the intangible value of living in the moment. We turn the potential into reality through exploring the world around us to its utmost. Each tile is based on a literary quote by writers, artists, songwriters, and philosophers and each tile has its own story.
The tile on the right is titled "Canvas" and includes a quote by Neil Gaiman "The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before." Thanks to our 160+ artists and artisans who do this every day.
The tile in the middle is "Aspire" and says "The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." A good thought for those graduating this month.
The one on the left reminds me of my summers on the Texas coast, trying to surf. The tile includes a quote by Paul Coelho "LIfe is a matter of waiting for the right moment to act." As Houston explains, "Surfers spend an inordinate amount of time waiting. Not 'doing nothing' as waiting around might be considered. They wait watchfully, learning to recognize the signature curves so that when they choose a wave, it isn't a wave yet. It's a swell with all the signs of curling and creating that gorgeous arc of thrill coursing over the shore. Acting in the right moment means the difference between cruising through the tunnel and being swept under the crest. The stakes can be high, just like in our life. But the thrill remains. When we see the corduroy of swells turning quickly into waves heading our way, we turn our board toward land, and all we need to do is enjoy the ride." There is a life philosophy in this. Go grab your wave and enjoy the ride.
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.