Outsiders: Folk Art in the Rural South

 —  —

Kingfisher Art Co., 7 East 2nd Ave., Rome

This unique art exhibit, sponsored by the Rome Area Council for the Arts, will feature works by self taught artists living and creating in the southeast. The Opening Celebration is free, and will feature works and a performance by Abe Partridge (Montgomery, AL), along with works by Tex Crawford (Commerce, GA), Robinella (Maryville, TN), Brad Cochran (Canton, GA), James Schroeder (Kingston, GA), James Barron (Anniston, AL), Scott Thomas (Mentone, AL). The gallery will be open noon-8pm, with the Opening Celebration from 3pm-8pm, and will include a free live music performance by Abe Partridge 6pm-8pm. The gallery bar will be serving beer and wine, mocktails, soft drinks and waters. This will be a stop on the Outsider Art Trail, an event put together by the Paradise Garden Foundation. Participants can hit all the art spots on the driving trail and have a chance to win an overnight stay in one of the cottages at Howard Finster's Paradise Garden. Other stops on the Outsider Art Trail include the Rock Garden in Calhoun, Ga and Trade Day in Summerville, Georgia, and are all kid friendly and dog friendly. For a complete list of the stops visit the Paradise Garden website at paradisegardenfoundation.org.

Alabama's Abe Partridge received national and international recognition in early 2018 when he released his first official full-length release, Cotton Fields and Blood For Days, to rave reviews and substantial airplay on Americana radio. It landed Partridge a lengthy feature in The Bitter Southerner and the album was chosen to be one of their “Top 30 albums of 2018.” Ranging from the earthy to the surreal, from the spiritual light to the depths of depression, Partridge draws listeners in with a combination of southern gothic storytelling, dark humor, and gripping intensity. When Partridge is not writing or touring, he is creating his folk art paintings, which now hang in art galleries around the Southeast and in the private collections of Tyler Childers, Mike Wolfe (American Pickers), and Rick Hirsch (Wet Willie). He painted the cover art for Charlie Parr’s, Last Of The Better Days Ahead (Smithsonian Folkways). His monthly subscription-based art club has sustained him (and his wife and 3 children) during the Covid-19 pandemic. American Songwriter Magazine said, “Abe Partridge has established himself as one of the most respected songwriters and visual folk artists in the southeast.” Partridge has recently resumed touring, including a recent “Artist Spotlight” at the legendary Bluebird Café and a showcase for his art and music at the 2021 FinsterFest. Partridge is currently putting the finishing touches on a new studio album projected to be released in early 2023.

Kingston, Georgia's James Schroeder is no stranger to Rome, as he is kin to the founders of Broad Street’s Schroeders Deli, a local favorite for pizza and sandwiches. James Schroeder (b.1983 Rome Ga) is a self taught Folk-Pop stencil artist who creates murals on doors and posters using spray paint, tape, and hand cut stencils to feature the forgotten individuals in History. His art has been seen on MTV, several folk art museums, the National Pastime Museum, and The King Center in Atlanta. He was a finalist for the art installation contest at The Mercedes Benz stadium. James also paints posters to hand out at the local MLK Jr celebration as well as BLM events during the unrest after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Additionally, he is the founder and organizer of the annual anti-bullying event, Ginger Pride, that ran from 2011-2019. James is currently a teacher, coach, and comedian.

For artist and musician Robinella, her music and art are woven together into the fabric of her life. “The more things change the more they stay the same. The longer I live the more I see the truth in this statement. And the truth I see is that as the day to day passes, while the years roll on, our lives are full of repetition -- repetition in choices, repetition in words, repetition of body and mind. As an artist, and a singer and songwriter, I see this repetition in paint, in color, and in song rolling off my lips. I'm from East Tennessee and this means a lot of things to different people. To me, it means a big family, a mild climate, an accent, a thank you and your welcome”.

The colorful works of Tex have been seen in galleries and arts festivals throughout the southeast, including Roots Up Gallery in Savannah, the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, GA, the OCAF Gallery in Watkinsville, the Steffen Thomas Museum in Madison, the Lyndon House Gallery in Athens, and the Georgia Museum of Art. Tex was born in Warner Robins GA in 1970. As a child of the 70's his visual nourishment came from an assortment of comic books, cartoons and lots of sci fi and monster movies. As well as his father's subscriptions to National Geographic, Time and Life magazines all of which have inspired some of the images and iconography in his art along his creative path. Tex is a self taught outsider artist who has been working with reclaimed materials in his art for over 25 year. Tex specifically likes working with reclaimed roofing tin as his preferred medium for the last 18 years. His techniques as well as vision have evolved a lot since then in many ways. He has created thousands of creations out of many fallen barn buildings and house tin roofs using an assortment of primitive tools guided by his curiosity and compulsion! He uses a lot of radiant and bright colors that embody positive energy as well as incorporating a lot of tooth and claw. For him, it's all about finding the balance between joy and the happiness we experience in life, and the trials and tribulations that sometimes we must endure to both appreciate and understand that joy.

Painter, furniture maker, and sculptor James Barron was born November 1955 in south Mississippi. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1982 and worked in advertising and design until 1998. Following his intuition he found a metal worker who hired him to help in his shop located in a warehouse on the fringe of the city. There he found other artists and cheap rent, and this combination fostered his creative growth. He began painting in 2000. Moving west, he tried to locate in Seattle but ended up in Lopez Island in Puget Sound, and again focused on the creative process. With every move his art matured, and he now lives in Pell City, Alabama in a cabin he built from the ground up out of salvaged materials.

Scott Thomas, from Mentone, Alabama, works predominantly with acrylic paint on 3 dimensional objects including musical instruments and vintage cameras. Scott also paints on canvas and wooden boards. Growing up in a mill village in Northwest Georgia, Scott credits his grandmother’s quilt making as the inspiration for his unique style. He turned to painting as a creative outlet at the age of 58 and has been passionately pursuing this art form for 15 years.

Bradley Cochran, AKA Rolling Nowhere, is a self taught artist and songwriter born in Rome, Georgia. A self-proclaimed late bloomer, Brad started writing and performing music at age 30 and began painting in 2016 at the age of 40. While working dude ranches in Wyoming in his twenties, Brad fell in love with Western Landscapes and culture. His subjects include Cowboys, Western landscapes, skulls, while also paying homage to his love of American roots music. “I painted myself out of a dark period in my life and found my passion inside a world of bright colors. I’m basically putting everything I love into a blender, adding color and moving forward to an unknown destination with my Art. “

The exhibit runs through July 9, and will feature ticketed performances throughout by several of the artists at various dates, with Brad Cochran performing June 25 and Robinella performing July 2. Kingfisher is a downtown Rome location with no designated parking lot. Look for street parking along Broad St. and E 1st St., or use one of the closest parking lots a block away at either the lot behind Harvest Moon, or Truist Bank, and the Roman Chariot provides free rides from and to anywhere in downtown Rome if you text them your location at 706-413-2822.