Wally Lowery talks folk art with CHMS art students

Published 11:00 pm Monday, September 24, 2012

Folk art is defined as art originating among the common people of a region that reflects their traditional culture, especially everyday or festive items produced or decorated by unschooled artists.

Wally Lowery, a member of the Troy City Board of Education, defines folk art in a much simpler way, as “art of the heart.”

Wally Lowery, a Troy folk artist, enhanced his presentation for CHMS art students Monday with original folk art paintings. Lowery is pictured with his “Pea River Fish.”

Lowery, who is making a name for himself as a folk artist, was the guest speaker at Jennifer Sullivant’s art classes at Charles Henderson Middle School Monday.

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He told the students that folk art is a visible expression of what they feel about something that they see or something they hold as a special memory.

Lowery introduced the students to the art of some of the area’s most noted folk artists, Mose T., Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Charlie Lucas, Wood Long, Betty Sue Matthews, John Henry Tony, Butch Anthony and Jean Lake.

“Folk artists paint what they feel,” he said. “They paint with their hearts. Folk artists have stories about their paintings because they are painting about things that mean something to them. They love to tell the stories about their art.”

Lowery showed screen images of the artwork of the local folk artists and also some images of his work.

“This one is called Black-eyed Santa,” he said and related the story of a relative who would always tease him that Santa wasn’t going to come see him.

“He said that Santa Claus would not bring me any presents because he beat Santa up the year before,” Lowery said, laughing. “So I painted Santa Clause with a black eye.”

Lowery said his “Santa” painting was purchased on eBay by one of President Obama’s Cabinet members.

“You just never know where your art might end up,” he said.

Lowery showed the students two of his original works.

“In the summertime, my grandmother would put tomatoes on her window sill to ripen,” he said, holding up a painting of tomatoes in a window, a strong remembrance of both his grandmother and her way of doing things.

“I like to fish and I fish a lot in the Pea River but you’d never see a fish like this one in the Pea River. It has lots of different colored spots on it. But this is the kind of fish that I would like to catch, so it’s the kind of fish that I painted. You can paint anything that you can imagine or the way you remember things.”

Lowery paints on found objects, including tin and wood. He had cut small squares of tin for the students to use as their canvases.

He turned the students loose to paint “something that means something” from their storehouse of childhood memories.

For several of the students, it was their “firsts” that were special – a first homerun, the first Ferris wheel ride or their first surfboard wipeout. Others painted family, friends and themselves and the places they call home.

Sullivant said the students enjoyed having Lowery and learning about folk art and some of the folk artists who call Alabama home. And, they had a great time painting their first folk artworks.