A Few Moments with Lonnie Holly

By: qwerty53

Oct 04 2009

Category: art, Uncategorized

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Attended my first Bluff Park Art Show yesterday and I award it a blue ribbon for overall interest & best new art faces (for me, anyway) this year.

Lonnie Holley was the featured guest and as I had recently seen his work hanging at the Young and Vann Art Gallery (which I call the folk-art museum), I was interested in meeting him up close and personal.

It’s one of the things I have come to admire about Alabama folk artists—their accessibility and willingness to just ‘do their thing’ and share themselves and their art with whoever shows an interest.

Lonnie has a long association with this show, which has a forty-year history.

I had heard the Bluff Park show was a little uppity about just who they let in or not, but I would say their methodology is working. When I first read the artist list, I recognized very few names and that was appealing. Lots of photographers, as it turned out, and of course I pay attention to that. Maybe more photographers than painters! That would certainly be a first in Birmingham . . .

But back to Lonnie Holley. He was giving demos to the children—letting them pick a rock from his bucket and sand it and wrap it with colored wire—like what is inside your phone cord—and make a necklace or sculpture. He was simultaneously honoring the adults and collectors hanging about with his presence and it was fascinating to watch this engaging dance of multi-tasking.

“He tells the best stories, too,” adds Kim Sisty, pictured with Lonnie in the group photo above. “At Kentuck, I love to just sit and listen to him.”

I was snapping shots and listening to the conversation and felt that I was there at a very touching moment when he presented a young girl with a rock shaped like a wing. “This is the one for you, oh yes, it looks like an angel’s wing,” he told her.

She spun around to show it to her mother, who said, “Oh, this just brings tears to my eyes, Lonnie,” and, in fact, shed them on the spot.

Tearing myself away from this vignette, I managed to see more of the show, but will certainly allocate more time here next year.

Here are others whose work I particularly admired:

Leo Tichell, photographer of  ‘dreams and light’ working in photomontage, who just happened to collect a cool $1750 show award.

Bill Palmer, wood sculptor and studio furniture maker, who proves it is possible to be whimsical in wood—something not usually seen. He does a lot with the heart motif—but not in a schmaltzy way, so that is a contributing factor for me.

Charles Pinckney, jewelry and metal artist from Athens, Ga., whose contemporary styling seemed to be well-received, judging by the line up of customers at his booth.

Bill Hill, an invisible presence whom I did not meet and who does not have a web site, but is a superb technician with a pencil (my guess is he’s a professional illustrator) exploring some extremely intricate compositions with an element of fantasy.

Susan Clayton, from Tallapoosa, Ga., who works in brown clay to portray black figural personalities. I had to ask if she, as a white woman, who creates only black figures, gets any flak long the way. “Only once,” she said, “but everyone pretty much expects me to be a wizened little black woman making these sculptures. They think I am just baby-sitting the booth.” That, of course, was exactly what came to my mind!

Then there was the artist known as Kemper, whose eccentric self-portraits beckoned me from a distance, then won me over with his style and self-effacing eccentricity. The portrait I would have purchased with a spare $850, shows him lying on a sofa with his tabby kitten—which happens to look just like my son’s recently acquired kitty—and produced a heart-warming kitten story of his own.

So, let’s just say, it is better to have wanted an unaffordable purchase, then to have not seen any art worthy of buying!

Though I would like to be more factual in some respects, I went to this show just to enjoy it—not write a commentary—although I should have known better and taken notes.

Other photos from my short time at the show are posted at: http://www.pbase.com/qwertycards/bluff_park_art_show_


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