Tag Archives: Georgia Folk Art

Ebenezer Cemetery, McIntosh County

Izear Day [5 February 1915-18 January 1931]

Though the headstone pictured above is the most unique in the cemetery, I have chosen to document the site due to its considerable collection of vernacular headstones. Ebenezer (spelled Ebernezer on the sign) is actually two cemeteries, located off Churchill Road near I-95. A fenced section is the white cemetery while the surrounding larger cemetery is the domain of African-Americans, a few of whom were born into slavery and others who represent the first generation after emancipation. The African-American section is what is represented here.

Charlie Ifield Thorpe [Circa 1877-1914]

The predominant vernacular form in this cemetery is the homemade star-adorned headstone, a locally made type that is well-represented in the nearby Gould Cemetery at Harris Neck. It’s possible that all of these were the work of the same maker. They follow in no particular order but many of the examples are memorials for the Thorpe family.

Thelma B. Thorpe [Unknown-18 November 1941]
Alice Thorpe [5 December 185116 September 1923]
Eddie Thorpe [Circa 1880-1922]
James C. Thorpe [20 August 1847-16 March 1939]
Affie White [1842-16 August 1931]
Ida Leake [Circa 1885-1921]
Irvin Weldon [16 August 1909-19 February 1936]
Rachel (York) Shellman [1881-6 October 1923] Born at Broxton GA
Susie G. Ross [25 September 1855-6 April 1943]
Reverend Pompie Anderson [12 September 1870-7 May 1949]
James B. Churchill [17 January 1897-19 February 1951]
J. C. Churchill [22 May 1867-16 May 1951] This stone features an O. E. S. Masonic emblem but is eroding quickly.
Mary E. Churchill [5 July 1879-17 July 1968] Wife of J. C. Churchill
Mary J. Jackson [Unknown-9 September 1925]
Proverb R. Roberson [6 June 1910-18 December 1955] Private 548 Quartermaster Service BN World War II
Pernellar Roberson [Unknown-3 January 1925] Born in Buckville SC, Died in Christ
The headstone for Brother Willie N. Alston is professionally made, but his footstone (below) and those of two other family members are more modern interpretations of vernacular types common in African-American cemeteries of the early 20th century.
Brother Willie N. Alston [15 January 1895-December 1974] Footstone
Brian Keith Alston [1 September 1975-6 December 1983]
Jessie Alston [29 July 1941-14 July 1968]
Hattie Hillery [15 September 1881-10 January 1928] This stone is the same style as two found in Behavior Cemetery on Sapelo Island and may have connections to those.

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Filed under --MCINTOSH COUNTY GA--

Smith Grove Cemetery, Jefferson County

This well-maintained African-American cemetery contains a collection of vernacular headstones of statewide importance, both as artifacts of ingenuity in the face of adversity and as sacred ground to the loved ones of those interred here. Thanks to Cynthia Jennings for making me aware of the site. Smith Grove [Smiths or Smith’s in some references] members made the best of what was available to them, which was typical of rural congregations. Many of the memorials are nearly unreadable*, but consider that at the time they were made, most rural African-American schools were grossly underfunded and were barely able to provide the basics of an education, and the makers of these were likely “drawing” the letters as opposed to writing them. I believe Smith Grove Cemetery should be on the National Register of Historic Places.

*-All names and dates that follow are presumed to be correct but the nature of the script makes it difficult to be completely accurate

Triangular Headstones

There are four triangular memorials, likely all accomplished by the same maker. Dates on Findagrave for these stones are not completely accurate. The way the numbers are positioned makes it nearly impossible to determine an actual date, in most cases.

Alex Stone (10 August 1862-22 November 1930). The date of Mr. Stone’s birth would indicate he was likely born into slavery.
Ed Way (1873-?)
Billie Lee Way (1865-1902).
Reverend B. T. Smith (1900-?). It is possible that Reverend Smith was the first pastor here and of the family for whom the church was named. [The name is listed as B. C. Smith on Findagrave, but I believe that may be an error in translation].

Unique Headstones

Inell Belle (2 December 1932-1944). This unique memorial is perhaps the most interesting of all the vernacular headstones at Smith Grove. I believe it represents a crown and/or the trinity.

This is the back side of the Inell Bell monument.

Unknown Memorial. It appears at first to resemble a keystone, but I don’t know if that was intentional. The rectangle in the middle likely once served as a frame for a piece of glass that held something of importance. The grave of PFC Robert W. Lockhart (not pictured), while a simple form, also has such a space and retains the original glass.
This side of the memorial has an even more complicated appearance, including incised areas that seem to be purposeful.
Tora Hymes (18 February 1864-?). This is a small wedge-shaped stone. I am not sure if the name I have given is correct.
Unknown. Stacked stones were once a common way to mark burials in African-American and white cemeteries, especially in rural locations.

Round Headstones

Sanie Brown (2 December 1932-1944)
Jessie Campbell (1931-1953)
Willie J. Hymes (1895-1945)

Traditional (Rectangular/Square) Headstones

Mell Berrie (1890?-February 1930). This is identified as Nell Berrie on Findagrave but I believe it to be Mell.
Unknown Avera (1850-1936). The first name is unreadable but contains an “o”, and an “r”. The surname is misidentified on Findagrave as Iveya. Avera was a common name in the area at one time.
Elex Tyler (14 November 1933-14 July? 1934)
Tom Hymes (February 1886-January 1920)
Professor L. W. Seabrook (January 1864-October 1956). Many of the later headstones in the cemetery use a form slab and stenciled letters.
The beautiful churchyard at Smith Grove.

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Filed under --JEFFERSON COUNTY GA--

Bessie McKnight Jones Memorial, 1929, Sandy Bottom

Situated in a small isolated cemetery, this vernacular headstone is an extraordinary work of African-American folk art. Details indicate the hand of someone with above-average skills in the medium, especially the braided pony tail and the eyes and eyelashes. And though time has been relatively kind to the sculpture, gravity is now its greatest threat. The grave is buckling and, without stabilization, the headstone will likely fall face-forward in the future. At this point, there is no way to definitively determine the maker, but such memorials were often created by a parent or husband.

Very little is known about Mrs. Jones, but her death certificate states that she was a housewife and married to Lonnie Jones. Her father, John McKnight, was born in South Carolina in 1888, and her mother, Amelia ‘Mealie’ Montgomery, born in 1890, was also a native of South Carolina. They were all living in Clinch County in the first decade of the 20th century [this section of Clinch became part of Atkinson County upon its formation in 1917]. Bessie was born in 1908 and was 21 years old at the time of her death from malaria, on 2 November 1929.

I’m grateful to Cynthia Jennings for bringing this treasure to my attention. Cynthia and Mandy Green Yates accompanied me to the cemetery on a recent photo trip. Cynthia notes that she has encountered quite a few difficulties in researching Mrs. Jones’s family but has learned her husband Lonnie was a turpentine laborer, was 20 years older than Bessie, and that she was his second wife. She also notes that some of the McKnight family were in Virginia by the 1930s. She identified the following siblings in Bessie’s family tree: Prince; Mitchell; Lizzie A.; Venis; Varnetta; Hettie; and Maggie McKnight. Hopefully, these clues will lead to more information.

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Filed under --ATKINSON COUNTY GA--, Sandy Bottom GA

Stone House Complex, Cuthbert

I’ve had a number of potential identifications for this house and restaurant but there is no consensus yet. I think it deserves documentation as an art environment, whatever it was. [NOTE: I’m still trying to confirm all of this information, so it may change at any time.]

The complex consists of two structures. The primary structure appears to be a house, which looks relatively simple from the front.

Its layout is quite whimsical, though. There are numerous rock houses and structures created by visionary and self-taught artist architects throughout the United States, most focused on religious or spiritual themes. This one appears to simply be one man’s personal vision. I’m not sure if the house and restaurant were built at the same time.

The second structure is sided with a mixture of limestone and cinderblock. Mac Moye notes that it was a restaurant for decades and that there are/were several similar limestone structures scattered around Randolph County.

It’s connected to the house by a series of arches, constructed of brick and limestone.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the restaurant structure are the two willow trees/trees of life surrounding the windows.

The property appears to be in relatively good condition but should be recognized in order to preserve it as an art environment and community landmark.

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Filed under --RANDOLPH COUNTY GA--, Cuthbert GA

Recycled Art, Cobbtown

cobbtown-ga-recycled-art-farmer-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2016

These are located just south of Cobbtown on Georgia Highway 57. The farmer appears to have been constructed of old fertilizer barrels.

cobbtown-ga-recycled-art-horse-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2016

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Houston Coin Laundry, Damascus

damascus-ga-houston-coin-laundry-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2016

At the other end of Main Street is the Houston Coin Laundry and another derelict storefront.

damascus ga laundry window painting photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

The window paintings are a nice feature.

damascus ga laundry photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

 

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Filed under --EARLY COUNTY GA--, Damascus GA

Folk Art Storefront, Lyons

Lyons GA Toombs County Faded American Flag Folk Art Storefront Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2016

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Filed under --TOOMBS COUNTY GA--, Lyons GA

Folk Art Roosters, Bacon County

Bacon County GA Folk Art Yard Ornaments Roosters Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

These roosters, made of metal grating, were the highlights of an interesting yard.

Bacon County GA Folk Art Rooster Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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Filed under --BACON COUNTY GA--

Pasaquan, Marion County

Pasaquan Eddie Owens Martins House Marion County GA Outsider Art Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This 1885 vernacular farmhouse brought Eddie Owens Martin back to Marion County in the mid-1950s and helped forever change the artscape of Georgia. But of course, there’s more to the story.  As evidenced by the Pasaquoyan totems which greet visitors at the front door, Martin didn’t consider this place on par with the backwoods landscape that cradled it. Rather, it was a universe all its own and his life’s work was the manifestation of that mythology.

Pasaquan Marion County GA 1885 Vernacular Farmhouse Entrance Totems Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Eddie Owens Martin was born on 4 July 1908 to poor white sharecroppers Julius Roe and Lydia Pearl Martin. In 1922, to escape the rural life and his father’s abuse, he left and eventually settled in New York City. In the mid-1930s, Martin had a high fever which resulted in a series of visions in which three “people of the future” from a place called Pasaquan selected him to depict a peaceful future for human beings. After receiving these visions, Martin began using the name St. EOM (pronounced Ohm), EOM being the acronym for Eddie Owens Martin. He spent another two decades in New York, waiting tables and telling fortunes. Upon his mother’s death in 1950, Martin was willed this house and the surrounding acreage. He returned a few years later and set about creating the Land of Pasaquan, as foretold in his earlier visions.

Pasaquan Outsider Art Universe of St EOM Buena Vista GA Restorations in Progress Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This visionary universe was literally created from the ground up, with St. EOM and the occasional assistant pouring concrete walls and creating eclectic outbuildings. Martin was an eccentric above all else and in a small town where most people were wearing jeans and overalls, his brightly colored flowing robes and long hair and beard, worn in varying styles, were a bit out of place. He was a celebrated fortune teller, as well, and Debbie Brazil recalls: “Went there many times with my Mama, for him to tell her fortune. The yard would be full of cars from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and one Sunday I remember one from Lousiana. Folks came from all around to see him.”  This suggests that he had a wide circle of associates who visited Pasaquan from time to time. Locals have said that he was tolerated because he helped keep some of the local stores in business buying so much material for Pasaquan. Other than a few friends and associates, he never quite fit in. His art received little attention in his lifetime. He committed suicide in 1986 and bequeathed Pasaquan to the Marion County Historical Society. A great profile from Tom Patterson, who literally wrote the book on St. EOM, can be found at Bomb Magazine. Subsequently, thanks in large part to the work of folklorist and documentarian Fred Fussell, a group known as Friends of Pasaquan was established to perpetuate Martin’s legacy. I’d like to personally thank Fred for pointing me in the right direction as to this photo project, as well.

Pasaquan Buena Vista GA Unrestored Totem Outsider Art of St EOM Eddie Owens Martin Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Even with the active involvement of the Friends of Pasaquan, the intervening years haven’t been kind to the place St. EOM left behind. Weather and time have taken their toll. But now, thanks to the generous involvement of the Kohler Foundation, the fading paint and cracking concrete (as seen on the totem above) that were beginning to threaten the very existence of this place, are being stabilized and given new life by a team of art conservators, assisted by art students from Columbus State University under the direction of professor Mike McFalls.

Pasaquan Buena Vista GA Shane Winter & Columbus State University Student Repairing Rebuilding Stone Wall Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Upon completion of the project, the Kohler Foundation will gift the site to Columbus State University (CSU) which will oversee it. The vast majority of St. EOM’s archival drawings, paintings and sculpture, long housed here, have already been transferred to CSU.

Pasaquan Restorations by Kohler Foundation Marion County GA Outsider Art St EOM Walls Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Totems are a common form here, as well as irregularly shaped concrete walls, embellished with various sculptural medallions.

Pasaquan Marion County GA Restorations Outsider Art Eddie Owens Martin Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Art restorer John Salhus from Parma Conservation in Chicago has been the primary paint conservationist. Here’s a totem he’s working on that really illustrates the scope of the project. Note that one side is painted and the other, with concrete stabilization evident, is still bare.

Pasaquan Totem Restoration John Salhus Kohler Foundation Eddie Owens Martin Buena Vista GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Shane Winter, from International Artifacts in Houston, has been painstakingly leading the concrete stabilization and reconstruction.

Pasaquan Buena Vista GA Restoration by Kohler Foundation Shane Winter Reworking Concrete Walls Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The pagoda, set atop concrete piers, is the first and last thing you see at Pasaquan. It’s a highly unusual form in these parts.

Pasaquan Pagoda St EOM Buena Vista GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The mural of the cross is particularly eye-catching. It’s centered on a wall depicting the galaxy (some galaxy) beneath colored circles of tin. The scalloped pressed tin is a recurring theme at Pasaquan.

Pasaquan Pagoda Cross Mural Buena Vista GA Eddie Owens Martin St EOM Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Erika Nelson, an art conservator based in Lucas, Kansas, has been busy documenting every inch of the pagoda before restoration can begin. Erika is an independent artist and educator who has traveled around the country championining Outsider artists and the environments they create, as well as seeking new material for her own whimsical creation, the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things.

Pasaquan Marion County GA Erika Nelson Restoring Pagoda Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The pagoda is located beside what was essentially Eddie Martin’s sand box, a ceremonial space where he often did mystical dances.

Pasaquan Pagoda Being Restored by Erika Nelson Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This visually complex meditation space is located directly behind the main house.

Pasaquan St. EOM Eddie Owens Martin Marion County GA Altar Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

It incorporates mandalas inside and out, so it was likely a temple or altar room by St. EOM’s imagining.

Pasaquan Marion County GA St EOM Mandala Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Here it is from the outside, just as fascinating. That’s John Salhus, in the far distance, meticulously painting the wall.

Pasaquan Structures St EOM Buena Vista GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

To the rear of the main house is this whimsical space, which St. EOM used as his studio.

Pasaquan Buena Vista GA Whimsical Architecture St EOM Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This entryway contains nearly all the elements that can be found throughout the grounds.

Pasaquan Door Post St EOM Eddie Owens Martin Restorations Marion County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

A unique chimney serves as a visual anchor between the studio and main house.

Pasaquan Marion County GA St EOMs House Chimney Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The area leads around the side of the house toward the carport, connected by more of St. EOM’s whimsical walls.

Pasaquan Carport and Wall Restorations in Progress Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

In a small valley just to the right is a temple that hasn’t been completely restored.

Pasaquan Eddie Owens Martin ST EOM Unrestored Building with Big Eyes Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Here’s one of several geometrically-influenced wall designs.

Pasaquan St EOM Marion County GA Outsider Artscape Geometric Wall Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This wall medallion features a Pasaquoyan in a “gravity suit”. Watch out for the folks from Ancient Aliens. They’ll make a connection…

Pasaquan Wall Medallion High Haired Spirit Restorations by Kohler Foundation John Salhus Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

One section of wall is topped with snake sculptures. I’ve read that locals (children, mostly, I suppose) believed that St. EOM had a herd of trained rattlesnakes who acted as his protectors.

Pasaquan St. EOM Eddie Owens Martin Snake Wall Sculpture Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

And here’s my favorite from a section of wall containing colorful depictions of Pasaquoyans.

Pasaquan Outsider Art St EOM Buena Vista GA Wall Mural Face Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --MARION COUNTY GA--

Birdhouse, Tazewell

Tazewell GA First Marion County Seat Folk Art Bird House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Located on the grounds of the 1848 courthouse, this birdhouse is an exaggerated folk art version of its host.

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Filed under --MARION COUNTY GA--, Tazewell GA