Celebrating ‘story art’

Published 10:55 pm Friday, April 27, 2012

The 10th anniversary of TroyFest seemed like the perfect time to honor Jean Lake, a local folk artist who is memorialized by the annual arts and crafts festival.

In an effort to do so, the TroyFest Committee established the “Spirit of Jean Lake Award,” a $300 prize that will be awarded each year to an artist who can be described as a self-taught, outsider or primitive artist or a visionary and one whose original work evokes his or her Southern heritage.

“Because this is the 10th anniversary of TroyFest and Jean Lake’s work is considered primitive art, the committee wanted to honor her by celebrating the folk artists who are such an important part of TroyFest,” said Stephanie Baker, TroyFest artists chair.

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“Of course, we have many other styles of art that combine to make TroyFest one of the most popular juried shows around.”

Baker said more emphasis is being placed on folk art at TroyFest because there is increasing interest in folk art and there are more than a few collectors in the Southeast Alabama area.

“Around Pike County, the interest in folk art really got started with Jean Thompson Lake,” Baker said. “She was self-taught and her art depicted the everyday rural life of the South and especially Pike County.”

Baker said Thompson is remembered by her friends as funny, tenacious and hard-working with a deep love for bringing art and people together.

“That’s exactly what TroyFest strives to do – bring art and people together.”

And who does that better than folk artists?

“Folk art is story art,” Baker said. “There is usually a story behind each piece and the artists enjoy sharing their stories and people enjoy hearing them. It’s amazing to watch these artists weave their stories while transforming a piece of tin or a weathered board into a work of art. It’s fun to sit back and listen.”

TroyFest will feature several familiar “folk” faces including She-She and Maurice Cook and emerging artists like Brian Bohanan and local artists Wally Lowery and Derek Rogers.

Maurice Cook is a highly acclaimed folk artist who paints rural scenes of the old South.

“His paintings depict the common, everyday things of life that may appear simple at first but have a powerful way of making people feel united,” Baker said. “His paintings make us all think about and remember where we came from.”

She-She is from Birmingham and has turned the recent tragedies in her life – lightning strikes and snake bites – into compelling works of art.

“She-She is a favorite at TroyFest,” Baker said. “Her art is in collections all across the country and in Tokyo, Holland, London and Australia.

Jim Weaver will exhibit at TroyFest for the first time. He paints little people in a big way. He started painting in 2004 at the age of 60. He reaches back to his childhood for many of his paintings. Weaver is from Florence.

Brenda Davis of Prattville is a niece of gospel singer, Emma Tucker Harris. Davis obsessively paints visions of her God-given dreams that help her overcome both the physical and emotional pain of MS and a trauma-filled life. Her works are in many important collections and three works have been accepted in Atlanta’s High Museum permanent collection.

Wally Lowery is a Troy boy and paints about hometown things – a favorite fishing hole, local legends and historic homes. His work hangs in 23 states and five countries.

Lillie Minnifield from Birmingham is a new exhibitor at TroyFest. Her style is mismatched and visionary folk art.

“Lillie Minnifield is fascinated by poetry and art and especially enjoys creating art about African-American musicians and capturing unique qualities about them,” Baker said.

Derek Rogers of Troy is an emerging artist who has only recently established a studio and begun exhibiting his artwork at shows.

“Derek is a traditional landscape, wilderness and wildlife artist,” Baker said.

Brian Bohanan from Helena is a mixed media folk artist who began to show a creative tendency in early childhood.

“Brian’s work shows reverence of nature, life and the creative process,” Baker said. “His art keep him connected to the beauty of nature and enables him to express his spirituality.”

“We are excited to have so many outstanding folk artists with us to celebrate the 10th anniversary of TroyFest and Jean Lake’s contributions to the folk art community.

“These folk artists will be among the 82 artists and craftsmen whose work will be on display and for sale at TroyFest on the square in downtown Troy today and Sunday.”

TroyFest hours are 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. today and 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday.