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Jimmy Lee Sudduth, 97; Alabama folk artist

September 10, 2007|From the Associated Press

Jimmy Lee Sudduth, a folk artist known for painting with mud, berries and other items to create images of people, buildings and his dog, Toto, has died. He was 97.

Sudduth, who had been in declining health, died Sept. 2 at a medical center in Fayette, Ala., a town in the rural western part of the state where he grew up and first gained wide notice in the 1970s and 1980s.

A prolific, self-taught artist, he began painting as a child. His work has been exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folklife, both in Washington, D.C., as well as museums in New Orleans, in Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala., and in Fayette.

"No one can top Sudduth, at his best, for gorgeous surface texture, color sense or, of course, technical innovation," Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts curator Susan Mitchell Crawley said in an interview with the Folk Art Messenger in 2005, when the museum mounted a major Sudduth exhibit.

Sudduth blended mud with other substances, including leaves, berries, sugar, coffee, paint and straw, smudging and tracing it on boards, sheets of metal and other found materials.

"He captured the life that he knew -- the rural life, the architecture, the people he knew, the people he saw on TV and his dog, Toto, in many forms," said Georgine Clarke, visual arts program manager for the Alabama State Council on the Arts and founder of the Kentuck Festival at Northport.

Until recently, Sudduth was a fixture at the Kentuck Festival, which celebrates folk art as well as contemporary and traditional work.

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