I really like old stuff that is deteriorating. The more it’s deteriorating the more it has to teach us, because the closer it is to nature itself. –Lonnie Holley
Like Great Black Music, the vernacular African American art tradition is exemplified by its birth in a culture that has nearly no references except to itself. Growing up in subterranean fields, barely noticed although typically noticeable as an embedded bold residency in the landscape,
Take work of the likes of Lonnie Holley, contemporary of Thornton Dial or the Gee Bend quilters, nicknamed the sandman, Holleys sprawling yard, the Sandman’s garden has been immortalized in image. A visual introduction to his universe is being prepared in documentary form. Here is a snippet from the film. From carved sandstone to found objects, this garden world is texturally dense and signifying (rather than significant) like Derek Jarmans Prospect Cottage garden. However the surplus in Holley’s esthetic lies somewhere between the imaginary junkyard of Sandford and Son or the homes of the protagonists in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Illustrating how uncloistered these untrained unacademic artists are, Holley not only creates visual sculptural site specific art but also sonorous art. His music is sprawling, experimental, improvised, unredemptive and haunting.
You can read more about this Alabama native’s work and listen to his trance inducing prayer-like music here
The incredible story of his early years can be found at Souls Grown Deep, which is a treasure trove dedicated to african american art makers. B Arnett is the founder of Souls grown Deep nonprofit that seeks to protect the works of the southern African American vernacular. We can thank his tireless cantankerously determined efforts of documenting and accompanying this Great Black Art.