Thursday, February 9, 2012

Folk Art Portrays Delta Life

Our home is filled with art from " Cotton Country."  My favorites have always been the work of Gladys Watson, a former Arkansas State Senator from Monette.  She was a dynamic person in many walks of life, but she was best known for her folk art paintings of our Northeast Arkansas Delta history.

I first met Gladys years ago at a church craft fair in Osceola. It was only the first of many encounters with her as we both traveled the craft shows in this state. Unlike most of us who needed trucks and vans to transport our wares, Gladys traveled in her car, packing everything she needed in her back seat and trunk. Her booth consisted of a fold-up table where she displayed her art, a chair to sit in, and a box of paints and brushes to paint items if business was slow. She seemed to know "everyone" and loved them all.

Nan Snider in a Holiday 2011 Delta Crossroads magazine article writes: "Watson often was referred to as the local "Granny Moses" of crafts, ceramics and painted cotton scenes on anything that didn't move. She had a thriving cottage industry called "The Cotton Patch," which was an antique hideaway in her back yard. The 100-year-old shack once was used by the seasonal cotton pickers who came down from the mountains each year. Watson's gourds and other projects remain as valuable forwms of artwork throughout the south. . ."

I have loved Gladys's paintings for many years and have finally realized why. Her paintings portray so many familiar memories of my younger days, before tenant houses and barns were razed. The buildings we have saved and renovated here at the farm are much like the ones Gladys loved to paint.  I began looking at the paintings more closely.

Most of Gladys's paintings included one or several of the same elements--a field of cotton, a wooden cart, a shed barn, a log house, tenant houses and tenants doing various tasks, an outhouse, a church, a school.

Now where had I seen these before?

The Cotton Fields. . .

A shed barn. . .

Brownlee Barn, northeast of Dell. 
Razed 2011.

 A Log House. . .

  The log house being reconstructed at our farm.

The Wilson House on the Simmon's Plantation was similar to the log house. Razed long ago.

Tenant Housing. . .

Earl Magers/CC Duncan Farm 1951
Built 1930; razed years ago.

 Earl Magers/CC Duncan Farm 1951
Built 1930
Our present home. . .
 and a Tenant House on a country road (right).

The Outhouse at our farm is a carbon copy of the one in the painting. I knew it looked familiar!

Tenants in the field, ca 1930s.
Nowadays, we only see the big machinery.

A  Church. . .

Crossroads Church before it was razed and burned in 2011.

Although Gladys lived in Monette, her artwork focuses on the entire Northeast Arkansas area. 
I'm afraid there are few surviving buildings to attest to that fact. 
So, if you happen to own a piece of Gladys Watson's folk art, 
treasure it.
You own a piece of our local heritage--our Delta history.

If you do own a piece of Gladys Watson's art work, please share it with us in a photo. 
I'd like to document more of her folk art.


James said...

I do have a few pieces of Ms Watson's painting! I'll email you today

Anonymous said...

Buffaloe Island Museum in Monette has more information on Gladys and some of her work. I own several pieces myself that I still enjoy.

SouthernSimplicity said...

Love the outhouse. Brings back memories. I fell through one.

Louise said...

Wonderful folk art. . .why havn't I seen this before? I live in the Delta. . .

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