Grateful to have a home, a car and a library card (which I couldn’t get without a home address), I visited the local book-lending facility recently. Beelining it to the sparse new-release case, I found and checked out the biography It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. This title chronicles the life of the noted “outsider” artist, who in 1935 left the farm where he’d always lived for the city. In Montgomery, Alabama, he eventually finds himself set up on a sidewalk, drawing—drawing all the things he saw and remembered, images and events he could never before express because slavery, constant backbreaking work and daily survival would not allow time for it. So, he had “saved up memories of these times deep inside himself,” and at age 81, began pouring them out in art with pencil upon cardboard. Sometimes Bill spoke; other times he did not, so immersed was he in this amazing process.
Don Tate superbly weaves a fascinating history of an artist and his circumstances. R. Gregory Christie strikes a perfect balance between representing Traylor’s work and his own, with lush colors and transcendent shapes and figures. Lucky find at the library!