Scads of Self-Taught Folk Art Highlight ‘Spring Masterpiece Sale’ in Georgia

This carved, stained and painted wood creation by S.L. Jones, titled “Dark Head Bust with Blue Eyes,” will be among the more than 1,000 pieces of folk and self-taught art for auction April 30-May 1 in an event hosted by Slotin Auctions.

BUFORD, Ga. – A weekend sale featuring more than 1,000 lots of folk art in a wide array of genres will be held April 30-May 1 by Slotin Auction at the Historic Buford Hall, located just north of Atlanta. Featured will be many pieces from the lifetime collection of Salvatore Scalora, director of the Atrium Gallery and the William Benton Museum at the University of Connecticut.

The auction will provide bidders with an eclectic and exciting mix of offerings: outsider and self-taught art, Southern folk pottery, American paintings and portraits, quilts, weather vanes, samplers, Americana carvings, shooting gallery targets, trade signs, tramp art, vernacular photography, Haitian works, African art, religious art, erotica, Jewish art, antique and anonymous works, and some incredible new discoveries. Slotin Auction specializes in bringing the strange, the unusual and the vanishing America to auction.

“We’re calling this our ‘Spring Masterpiece Sale,’ with the theme being ‘Changing Faces of American Folk Art,’” said Steve Slotin of Slotin Auction. “Folk art, while deeply rooted in history and the American experience, is evolving, like any other art form, and this sale will reflect emerging trends. We’re really mixing things up. This will be one great sale.”

Salvatore Scalora was born in Italy into a large family of peasant farmers who emigrated to the United States. Salvatore was the only one of eight children to attend high school, then he went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago. While there, he and a friend, Clay Morrison, developed a deep love and appreciation for the world of folk art. Clay passed away a few years ago and, at his request, his collection was sold through Slotin Auction as a benefit for the School of Art in Chicago.

As is the case with many early self-taught art enthusiasts, Scalora not only collected folk art, he made frequent trips to his folk artist heroes, at first with Clay Morrison and later his wife. Trekking into often rural and forbidding terrain, he broke bread and befriended giants in the field such as Edgar Tolson, S.L. Jones, Lanier Meaders, William Dawson, Minnie Black, Noah Kinney, Carl McKenzie, Denzil Goodpaster and others. The earliest of collectors often covet these quirky meetings with the artists as much as the art treasures they bring home.

“I was consumed with these amazing artists as I ventured out to experience their folk art environments,” Scalora said. “As we visited our old folk artist friends, and sought out new ones, it became evident that there was so much wisdom in the folk artists’ lives and in their art. They led mostly ordinary, productive lives, but were drawn into this new creative life later on.”

Some expected top lots of the auction follow, with accompanying high and low estimates.

Works by Bill Traylor are always in high demand, and this sale will feature several fine examples, including a signed ink on cardboard work titled “Drinking Man With Owl and Two Figures on Geometric Object,” framed, 8 inches by 12 inches (est. $20,000-$25,000); and another signed ink on cardboard work, 9 ½ inches by 8 inches, titled simply “Dog” (est. $20,000-$25,000).

 

Ink on cardboard work by Bill Traylor, titled simply “Dog,” signed upper left, excellent condition.

Two other folk art giants—Howard Finster and Clementine Hunter—will also be featured in the sale. Finster’s tractor enamel on cutout board with mixed media titled “Henry Ford #3,772,” signed and dated Sept. 23, 1984, should bring $3,000-$5,000, while Hunter’s circa 1940s paint on paper work titled “Boy With Horse,” 13 inches by 10 inches, framed, should hit $5,000-$8,000.

 

Tractor enamel on cutout board with mixed media by Howard Finster, titled “Henry Ford #3,772.”

S. L. Jones—another folk art superstar—will be represented in the sale, with works such as “Dark Head Bust With Blue Eyes,” a stained and painted wood carving, signed by the artist (est. $5,000-$8,000). Also, paintings by a new discovery—author and psychiatrist Dr. Samuel A. Greenberg—will include a 1960 oil on canvas titled “Average Normal Born” (est. $1,500-$2,000). Greenberg authored two autobiographical novels in the early 1960s and developed his own discipline of therapy he coined theopsychosophy. He created a series of original paintings to illustrate and explain his theory and used them as teaching tools in practice and when he lectured. This is the first time his original works will be offered to the buying public.

 

Heavy oil built up on canvas by Dr. Samuel A. Greenberg, M.D., titled “Face the Truth or Else.”

The Meaders family—prolific potters and Slotin Auction favorites—will be featured, with works such as “Grape Cannister Set (4 Pieces),” by Arie Meaders, signed and dated, 1969 (est. $12,000-$15,000); Arie and Cheever Meaders’ turned and signed “Four-Color Swirl Vase” (est. $2,000-$3,000); and Lanier Meaders’ 1967 “Rock Eyed Face Jug” (est. $8,000-$12,000).

 

Iron sand glaze face jug by Southern pottery icon Lanier Meaders, titled “Rock Eyed Face Jug.”

A pair of 19th-century American School portraits are certain to generate bidder interest. An unsigned 40-inch by 50-inch rendering of Margaret and John Loper of Philadelphia, still in the original frame, should realize $5,000-$10,000, while an oval oil on canvas portrait of a woman from the mid-1800s, 24 inches by 30 inches, also unsigned, should make $3,000-$5,000.

 

Unsigned oil on canvas American School rendering of Margaret and John Loper of Philadelphia.

Vintage erotic photos are another genre that often flies below the radar but consistently does well. Two examples of note, both by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, and both from the 1940s, depict his most famous subject, Marie, his wife, in nude repose. One is a montage photo, 5 inches by 7 inches; the other is a gelatin silver print, 3.5 inches by 4.5 inches. Both should command $1,000-$2,000. Von Bruenchenhein is currently the subject of an important show at the American Folk Art Museum in New York.

Beautifully carved eagles are a unique slice of Americana, and this sale boasts several. These include an anonymous carved and varnished wood figure, highly stylized with incredible details, from the mid-1800s, 45 inches tall (est. $3,000-$5,000); and a late 1800s American eagle with outstretched wings, carved wood with gesso, 37 inches tall, unsigned (est. $1,500-$2,000).

 

Circa 1950s signed and framed oil on board titled “Mother Bird,” by Haitian artist Adam Leontus.

Haitian art from the 1950s, rare and in high demand, will be sprinkled throughout the sale. Pieces will include Adam Leontus’ circa 1950s signed oil on board titled “Mother Bird” (est. $2,000-$4,000). Examples of tramp art from the Clifford Wallach collection, many of which are illustrated in his book, “Another Notch,” will feature an anonymously made large mirror frame with hearts, made from chip carved wood, 51 inches tall, 34 ½ inches wide (est. $2,500-$3,500).

Finally, works by the noted Native American painter Fritz Scholder (1937-2005), will include a signed oil on board titled “Indian Chief,” 5 ½ inches by 5 ¼ inches inside a 10-inch by 10-inch frame (est. $1,000-$3,000).

For more information about this auction, call 770.532.1115 or 404.403.4244, e-mail to auction@slotinfolkart.com or visit the Slotin Auction web site.

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