Sweet mud and house paint — Jimmy Lee Sudduth

Jimmy Lee Sudduth

March 10, 1910 – September 2, 2007
Fayette, AL

“I’m gonna be fay-mous, fay-mous!  I didn’t learn much in school—Just learned to write my name—Jim.  But I believe I’d rather be famous, than rich or smart.”  “I leave the drips so people know it is mine.”

— Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists by  Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Abbeville Press, New York, 1990.

Born in Caines Ridge, Alabama, Jimmy Lee Sudduth achieved recognition for his colorful paintings made with mud, sugar and natural pigments. He had little formal education, and his teachers said he would like to draw then learn his subjects. Before he started to paint full time, he worked in the nearby farms and at a gristmill.

His paintings are made of mud, which he claimed he has been doing since he was three years old. In the late 1960s, he started appearing at county fairs with his harmonica and his mud paintings, and that is when others began to learn of his work.

Often Jimmy started with a plywood base and outlines images with the soft stones he called “dye rocks.” When they are dipped in water, they soften, enabling him to make a heavy line on the board. Then he mixed his sweet mud of local dirt with sugar or soda pop (which creates a powerful binder)—“Gotta be that good Alabama dirt”—and started to paint. His older paintings were colored with natural pigments from weeds and vegetables, which he rubs on the surface. Later paintings are made with house paint.

In addition to painting, Jimmy was known for playing a mean blues harmonica (although a doctor advised him to put it away), and enjoyed the perks of fame, evidenced by a scrapbook filled with photos of all the pretty girls who have visited him. In 1976, he performed at the Smithsonian Institution’s Bicentennial Festival of Folklife.

Bibliography & Links:

“Detour Art—Outsider, Folk Art, and Visionary Folk Art Environments Coast to Coast, Art and Photographs from the Collection of Kelly Ludwig” by Kelly Ludwig, Kansas City Star Books, 2007.

“Rare Visions & Roadside Revelations” (the book), by Randy Mason, Michael Murphy and Don Mayberger, Kansas City Star Publishing, 2002.

“Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations Coast to Coast Travel-o-Pedia” by Randy Mason, et. al., Kansas City Star Books, 2009.

On DVD – Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, “Southern Flavor”, KCPT, Kansas City Public Television, 1999-2001.

“20th Century American Folk, Self Taught, and Outsider Art” by Betty-Carol Sellen, Cynthia J. Johnson, Neal-Schuman Publishers, New York, 1993.

“American Folk Art, A Regional Reference” by Kristin G. Congdon and Kara Kelley Hallmark, ABC-CLIO Publishers, California, 2012.

“American Self-Taught Art: An Illustrated Analysis of 20th Century Artists and Trends with 1,319 Capsule Biographies” by Florence Laffal and Julius Laffal, 2003.

“Contemporary American Folk Art  – A Collector’s Guide”  Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Abbeville Press, 1996.

“Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum” by Tom Patterson, Watson-Guptill Publications/New York, 2001.

“Let it Shine: Self-Taught Art from the T. Marshall Hahn Collection”  by Lynne E. Spriggs, Joanne Cubbs, Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, Susan Mitchell Crawley, Michael E. Shapiro and Peter Harholdt, organized by the High Museum of Art, 2001.

“Light of the Spirit : Portraits of Southern Outsider Artists” by Karekin Goekjian and Robert Peacock, University of Mississippi Press, 1998.

“Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists” by  Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Abbeville Press, New York, 1990.

“Flying Free: Twentieth-Century Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Ellin and Baron Gordon” by Ellin Gordon, Barbara L. Luck and Tom Patterson, exhibit catalog for The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, 1997.

“Self Taught, Outsider, and Folk Art—A guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources” by Betty-Carol Sellen with Cynthia J. Johnson, McFarland & Company, 2000.

“Souls Grown Deep: African American vernacular Art of the South”, Vol 1, Arnett, et al, 1995.

“Testimony: Vernacular Art of the African-American South: the Ronald and June Shelp Collection”, Cronwill, Danto, Gaither, Gundaker and McWillie, 2001.

Self-Taught Folk Art: “Jimmie Lee Sudduth”

Raw Vision Magazine

Anton Haardt Gallery (under Artists): “Jimmy Lee Sudduth”

Marsha Weber / Art Objects