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Folk art graces festival show

BEST OF SHOW – The folk art of Hattie Marshall-Duncan was on display during the West Tennessee Regional Art Center Invitational Art Exhibition held at the West Tennessee Regional Art Center on Main Street in Humboldt last Sunday. Marshall-Duncan’s piece “Sharon” was selected Best of Show.

Sunday afternoon brought many people out for the West Tennessee Regional Art Center Invitational Art Exhibition held at the West Tennessee Regional Art Center on Main Street in Humboldt. The current exhibit featured at the center is folk art. This type of art is both creative and reflective of real life. Many pieces by Jackson artist Hattie Marshall-Duncan are displayed throughout the art center.

Marshall-Duncan was on site for the exhibition and was gracious enough to spend a few minutes speaking with those who wished to visit with her. Marshall-Duncan, who will be 70 in July, has focused her craft on sculptures that she embellishes with found objects. One example of found objects were the earrings of two her sculptures on display. Both sculptures use mango seeds for the earrings. Each piece has a distinct look and it is hard not to smile when you view them.

“I want my art to remind you of some happy place,” said Marshall-Duncan.

While she is a self-taught artist, she believes it is a gift, even a ministry. Though some of her art is for sale, Marshall-Duncan says she has given away more than she has sold.

“I remember a time when I didn’t have anything to give,” she said.

After a time of viewing, eating and visiting, the introductions and welcomes were made. Speakers included Bill Hickerson, Mayor Marvin Sikes, Strawberry Festival President Ashely Culpepper and Brian Bundren. Bundren is an assistant professor of art at Freed Hardeman University and acting juror for the day. Bundren previously served twice as juror for the invitational art exhibition.

Bundren said that folk art is given two names, folk art and outsider art. He went on to speak of Marshall-Duncan’s time as an outsider artist.

“Her earliest influence was her sharecropper father who drew, sketched and doodled,” he said.

Her father’s influence led her to become a self-taught artist who went on to sell her work to schoolmates for five cents per piece.

Today she uses homemade clay molded to wire forms and then her found items are ornamentation to the sculptures. Her work has brought her notoriety. University School of Jackson’s Art Festival was Marshall-Duncan’s first showing. Since then she has shown at the West Tennessee Regional Art Center, the Bank of Jackson and various fairs and exhibitions. Not too long ago Marshall-Duncan was honored with a gallery show with a question and answer session at Union University in Jackson.

Before presenting the Best of Show award to Duncan for her piece he selected, Bundren spoke a little more on folk art.

“Folk art is by people for people,” he claimed.

It is art made from everyday objects transformed into art. Outsider art has been recognized as an art category since the mid-20th century.

“Outsider art has honest and pure origins in which artists free from pre-conceived ideas that insider artists deal with,” he explained.

He added that Marshall-Duncan’s art remains fresh, relatable and human.

As juror for the art exhibition, Bundren was tasked with selecting one piece to be named Best of Show.

“Sharon was the winning piece he said, because Sharon is real. I’ve seen her in the grocery store, in my neighborhood,” he noted.

The materials used in “Sharon” include wire, bright face painting and detailed pattern in clothing.

The folk art at West Tennessee Regional Art Center will be on display through the summer.

To close the show, Bill Hickerson revealed a painting of Dr. Ben Caldwell, benefactor to the West Tennessee Regional Art Center. Caldwell, a Humboldt native, has been in poor health, he noted.

Monday, Hickerson was sad to inform the Chronicle that Dr. Caldwell died peacefully Sunday.

The late Dr. Ben Caldwell’s portrait was unveiled Sunday at the West Tennessee Regional Art Center.

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