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Frank Calloway: Pageants from the Old South

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I've been talking with Andrew Edlin of Edlin Gallery in NYC, who represents Frank Calloway (the 112-year old artist from Tuscaloosa).

Note: his age has been well disputed.


Back in January when I wrote about the Outsider Art Fair there, the AP story mentioned that his work was being sold, which confused me because a previous AP article had said that:


His caretakers have suspended sales of his (Frank Calloway's) artwork until after the show after finding out that some of his drawings could sell for thousands of dollars.

The show they're referring to there is 'The Marriage of Art, Science, and Philosophy' at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, which doesn't end until September 6th of this year.

Andrew was very helpful and explained that he had visited Frank in mid-December and came back with several of his drawings, many range from 15 to at times over 50 feet.  And many of them date to 2006 and earlier.

I told him that I was really interested in them, and wondered how one would display a Frank Calloway scroll, being as long as they are.  Here's the solution Andrew told me about: they have "these kind of scroll devices to mount on a wall that enable you to display as much or little of the work as you want. This way you get to own the entire piece but choose what segment you want to display. This is what AVAM is using."  (Pics of Frank's work at AVAM are here)

I guess that makes perfect sense.

Tonight is the opening reception for the Edlin Gallery's show, Frank Calloway: Pageants from the Old South, which is Frank's first gallery exhibit.  This is the description that went along with the invitation, which puts his age closer to 95.  It has been disputed whether or not Mr. Calloway is actually 112:


Frank Calloway was born poor, black and fatherless in Montgomery, Alabama approximately 95 years ago and has been committed since 1952 to the buildings and grounds of the Bryce Hospital and the Alabama Department of Mental Health in Tuscaloosa. Calloway did farming and gardening work on the 200-acre campus of the hospital. When U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson revised work standards in 1972, replacing manual labor with arts and crafts, Calloway began to draw. Using mainly crayons and markers Calloway became so obsessed with his art that the staff began giving him 30-foot long rolls of butcher paper to allow him to continuously create.


His murals often consist of processions of farm animals, people in houses, buildings and buses, working men on their trucks, paddle wheel steamboats, locomotives and trains, and their crews. They burst with color: deep greens, highlighter yellows, navy blues and Pepto-Bismol pinks. Many are stained with tobacco juice. His images of houses with their smoke-billowing chimneys recall Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.

The exhibit goes through May 2, 2009.



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