Published: May 15, 2018
Review and Onsite Photos by Marty Steiner, Catalog Photos Courtesy Slotin Folk Art Auction
BUFORD, GA. – I doubt that many readers of this article will ever own a Bill Traylor drawing. Slotin Folk Art Auction typically only manages to have one to offer in each of their sales, but these are frequently the top dollar lot, as was the case again in this spring sale. Traylor’s “Black Turkey” hammered down at $43,200 to a Montgomery, Ala., collector.
The April 28-29 sale offered 1,142 lots that sold anywhere from $30 to the Traylor’s $43,200 result. Perhaps unusual in this day and time, the auction hall was full, and in-house bidding accounted for a third of the $1,070,160 total sales figure. Nearly half the lots and 37 percent of the revenue came from online bidders, with the remainder generated by phone and a few left bids.
The “warm up” act on the first day of this Slotin sale was 103 lots of Southern folk pottery. In general, pottery prices fell within expectations with no newsworthy exceptions. A group of Lanier Meaders face jugs, the standard of this form, ranged from $780 each for an incised, baggy-eyed example with tobacco-spit runs and a simple china tooth tan glazed jug to $1,560 each for two different iconic rock tooth face jugs. Meaders’ utilitarian forms were also sold with a signed ovoid grape-decorated lidded cookie jar reaching $480.
A series of miscellaneous and anonymous lots followed with three seldom-seen-at-auction Navajo Night Chant healing ceremony Yei masks, which received strong online bidding. One example, with a pigment-dyed rawhide face topped with a reed and straw hat, brought $5,040, and another with dyed wool hair and a red bandana sold for $3,240.
The Traylor drawing opened the featured lots, which also included Ellis Ruley’s “Stag Hunt,” an oil-based house paint on poster board, which brought $24,000. This widely toured painting had been featured in a number of published works. An animated phone bidding feud took Sister Gertrude Morgan’s “I Saw Four Angels Standing on the Four Corners…” multimedia on artist paper work to $21,600, doubling the estimate. Tour and published provenance aided the lot.
Two Sam Doyle paint on found tin roofing examples included “Penn Drummer Boy” at $20,400, which had been purchased directly from the artist by the consignor. Ten Purvis Young paintings, all from the Jimmy Hedges collection, ranged in size from a 21-by-48-inch vinyl “canvas” to full 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood. Young’s horses and trucks were usual themes, with a paint on full sheet featuring opposing groups of black and white horses selling for $8,400 and his trucks on vinyl catching only $600. Hedges’ collection accounted for nearly 100 lots in this sale.
Jimmy Hedges was an avid collector, wood carving artist and member of the folk art community who passed away in 2014 at his home in north Georgia. Like other folk art collectors, Jimmy knew many of the artists as friends. Jimmy’s letters and notes to and from the broad folk art community are now in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. His namesake son, James, commented, “Art is an expression that every human has – whether mentally ill, indigent, imprisoned, hobbyist or folklorist. This creative spirit is core human stuff. My dad documented that universe!”
Clementine Hunter paintings continued to bring consistent prices. Her “Cotton Pickin’,” one of the artist’s favorite themes, featured four ladies with hats in the field. It topped the five lots offered at $4,680.
The recent announcement that additional James Castle drawings have been found in the walls of his Boise, Idaho, home currently under restoration may have driven both of the Slotin offerings to strong bids. A double-sided typical Idaho farm view brought $6,600 and a barn interior with verso rural landscape reached $7,200. Both of these were of his usual spit and soot on found materials.
Six Thornton Dial paintings all brought strong prices. His charcoal and pastel on paper titled “African Spirit Inside” topped the group at $7,800, followed by three other works that each sold for $6,600.
Minnie Evans’ precise and generally symmetrical images all brought strong bids. An early, small 7Ã½-by-5-inch unsigned graphite and crayon, black on white image topped the group of five works from the artist, selling in-house at $7,200.
All three racially charged, carved and painted wood relief Herbert Singleton panels brought strong results. His 30-by-78-inch panel door, “In the Eyes of God,” reached $6,000 and two other examples sold for $4,800 and $5,400.
Myrtice West may have had greater knowledge of the Holy Bible than most priests or preachers. Her paint and glitter detailed illustrations of individual scripture chapters are almost overwhelming. Her “Book of Daniel Ch 7” on Masonite brought $7,800 and “Ezekial Ch 31,” $6,000.
No sale of American folk art would be complete without an assortment of prolific visionary artist Howard Finster’s work. His large 28-by-52-inch tractor enamel on Masonite, “The Great Holy City” topped the group of 18 offerings at $8,400. In addition to the usual painted cut-out forms of trumpeting angels, Hank Williams and Cadillacs, a large, unusual cut-out, “Four Ways of the Cross,” sold for $4,080.
Not every form or artist brings high prices. The folk art world includes a wide variety of forms and materials, each with its recognized group of artists and collectors. This sale included wood carvings by S.L. Jones, animals by Felipe and Leroy Archuleta, Linville Barker, Minnie and Greg Adkins, Carl McKenzie, Josephus Farmer, Sulton Rogers and Fred Webster. Painted cutout wood forms by Lavon Williams and James Harold Jennings, along with cutout metal creations by David Butler, were sold. Blues musician and clay sculptor James “Son” Thomas fashioned skulls and heads from gumbo clay and found objects. All three of his creations in this sale sold for multiples of their expected prices, including $1,680 for a skull with wig hair and a stark white skull with teeth for $3,840.
Slotin Folk Art Auction conducts two sales each year. These two-day events are in April and November. The next Slotin sale is scheduled for November 10-11.
Prices, with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house.
For information, 770-532-1115 or www.slotinfolkart.com.
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