The exhibition MAKE is an intimate journey into the lives of four American self-taught artists: Prophet Royal Robertson, Hawkins Bolden, Judith Scott, and Ike Morgan. Isolated and struggling with the disabilities that life dealt them, these artists discovered a unique and powerful voice through art making. Using the simplest of materials, each has produced work that is sublime and completely their own.
From morning until night, Ike Morgan spends almost every moment creating art. Over the years, he has produced thousands of haunting paintings depicting presidents of the United States, the Mona Lisa, and the Last Supper. While the sources for his imagery are immediately recognizable, Morgan renders familiar conventions into new forms. George Washington’s iconic face becomes a webbed grid of bold paint strokes on top of dense, jagged black outlines that cover an initial ballpoint pen drawing.
In a similar manner, the late Royal Robertson covered every inch of his Baldwin, Louisiana home and yard with hand-made signs and apocalyptic paintings. Visitors of this self-proclaimed prophet were greeted by large, weather-beaten warning signs before entering his home. Once inside, shrines to his ex-wife Adell, both beloved and despised, came into focus amid poster board renderings of future cities, space autos, and detailed calendars chronicling his daily woes. Referencing sources as disparate as the Bible, science fiction magazines, pornography, and cheap tabloid newspapers, Robertson’s work manages to graphically illustrate the daily concerns that occupied his mind, both real and imagined.
Also now deceased, both Hawkins Bolden and Judith Scott had no concept of themselves as artists. When asked if he was making art, Bolden referred to his scarecrows as functional objects meant to keep birds away. But pieced together with objects destined for the trash, they are otherworldly and ominous. With Scott, viewers will never know exactly why she created her intricate art works. Guesses can only be made at the motivations behind her wrapped creations that conceal objects which were stolen, only to then be hidden forever beneath layers of twisted yarn and string.
This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the documentary film MAKE, co-directed by UT alumnus Scott Ogden and Malcolm Hearn, which was released in June 2011. The VAC will host a special screening of the documentary followed by a discussion with Ogden, who also curated the exhibition. The film will also play on loop in the gallery throughout the duration of the exhibition to provide a richer context for the art works on display.