Published: August 30, 2022
Review by Marty Steiner, Photos Courtesy Slotin Folk Art
BUFORD, GA. – What was simply billed as a Fun Folk Art & Paradise Garden Fundraiser was exactly that on August 6 and 7, conducted by Slotin Folk Art. With gobs of such goods by recognized artists, each of the sold lots went for accessible prices. With 757 objects spread across the two days, most of the higher priced lots were sold on the first day. The majority of these exceeded their catalog estimates. The extensive experience of Slotin’s team directed the strength of the bidding in this sale. While other auction houses may include folk art sales, this category is Slotin’s specialty. The sale totaled $426,000 with proceeds from some of the sales’ lots benefiting the Paradise Garden Foundation, amounting to $9,370. Paradise Garden, the Howard Finster folk art environment in Summerville, Ga., is operated and continually restored by this organization. The funds from these sales were allocated to art teachers, supplies and student scholarships at the Paradise Garden Learning Center.
“In the Beginning…” of this auction was a favorite biblical couple for folk artists. Adam and Eve were presented by Levent Isik holding hands in a lacelike garden of trees with a serpent poised above them as if ready to strike. This colorful scene took top honors at $4,875, well over the $2/3,000 catalog estimate. Alberoi Bazile’s circa 1970 oil on Masonite “Garden of Eden” tempted a $1,000 bid against an estimate of $200/400, and Rudy Bostic’s version with the couple engulfed with painterly foliage and a bird or two also topped its estimate of $300/500 at $728.
The prolific works of Howard Finster (American, 1916-2001) were well represented in this auction. Among the top 25 sales were five Finsters out of 27 on offer. The top of these was a trumpeting angel that sounded at $3,875 ($3/4,000). Lesser-seen Finsters included a rag art creation with painted rag tacked to a found cabinet door that sold for $688 ($500/800), two wood-burned mantel clocks at $500 and $875, and a painted gourd for $532. All of these met or exceeded their estimates.
Also dominating the top lots were African American artists Jimmie Lee Sudduth (1910-2007) and Purvis Young (1943-2010). Sudduth was as unconventional an artist as you can be. His work employs a paint made up of mud, mixed with sugar water and colors extracted from plants and applied with the broad strokes of his fingers. His “Portrait of Envy” just missed being the top lot, bringing $4,625. Not far behind, a Sudduth favorite subject, the dog “Toto” which barked up $3,875. Each piece more than tripled their high estimates of $1,200. Sudduth’s other top lots ranked by price included “Dancing Couple” at $2,750; “Woman with Flowers in Hair, $2,625; a pair of small paintings “Horse” and “Cow” sold together for $2,500; and “Cycling Santa” at $2,125. All exceeded their high estimates and 18 Sudduth lots were sold altogether.
Among self-taught artist Purvis Young’s best received works in this sale were creations of paint, marker and collage of found materials. An impressive 25 percent of the top 25 lots were his works, from his fourth place “Funeral Scene” that brought $4,375 on, every lot exceeded its estimate. Among these were his “Four Squares,” with his horde and people images at $3,000, and “Warrior with Horse” on a found, warped fiberboard for $2,875. Others included “Triptych” with three scenes of dancing people at $2,625 ($1/2,000) and “Pregnant Woman on Horse” for $2,500, both over their $1/2,000 estimate.
Other solid performers in this sale included Thornton Dial (1928-2016) with four lots that all exceeded estimates, starting in the sale’s order with “Woman with Cat” for $1,250 ($600/800). Others, all with estimates of $800-$1,200 included “Small Nude” at $1,375, “Tiger with Woman” at the highest price for $2,000 and “Portrait in House” at $1,875. All but the last are watercolor and graphite, with the last only graphite, on artist paper and professionally framed.
Traditionally wood carvings are categorized among the most basic folk art. Minnie Adkins (b 1934), hailing from eastern Kentucky, is regarded as the reigning matriarch of this art form. Half a dozen lots included three Minnie and Garland Adkins carved and painted lots. A group of four small animals drew $938 ($500/800). Another was a miniature possum mother and babies grouping for $532 ($100/200) and a group lot with a purple anteater and possum family group also drew $938 ($300/500). A single purple anteater grabbed $313, over its $100/200 estimate.
Alabama-born B.F. Perkins (1904-1993) brought together patriotism and faith in his art. Quoted as saying, “if art don’t tell me anything, it’s not art,” all his art carries messages. A youth-sized desk and chair with red, white and blue, American flag motifs and messages brought $1,188 to the top of his six lots, meeting the estimate of $800-$1,200. All of Perkins’ lots met or exceeded their estimates.
Many folk artists utilize unconventional materials and methods to create their art. This is particularly true in the three-dimensional works. This sale included three Lonnie Holley (b 1950) sandstone carvings; “Three Profiles” for $2,125 ($200/300) and a pair of similar sculptures in a group lot for $1,375 ($400/600). Another Holley sculpture, “Double Profile With Running Man” was made from bent and shaped aluminum wire, and sold for $1,500 ($300/500).
The fun of auctions is, in part, the surprises. Strange things do occur, and the sale’s top lot, coming on the second day, was just such a surprise. Somebody really wanted a two-sided trade sign with the word “Drugs” spelled out in lightbulbs and boosted its bidding to $4,875 from a $200/400 estimate. The consigner of this sign will undoubtedly experience a sense of euphoria after that sale. Not exactly folk art, but one of a few such miscellaneous lots.
Prices given with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Slotin’s Fall Masterpiece biannual auction will take place November 12 and 13. For information, 770-532-1115 or www.slotinfolkart.com.
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