This exhibition brings together two masters of self-taught art who share a name and a talent for using simple materials to create compelling images: William Hawkins and Hawkins Bolden.
William Hawkins (1895-1990) was born in Kentucky but spent much of his adult life in Columbus, Ohio, where he moved as a young man to avoid a shotgun wedding. Hawkins began painting intermittently in the 1930s and worked at jobs as varied as horse breaking and truck driving for much of his life. It wasn’t until being introduced to artist Lee Garrett in 1979 that he began dedicating himself exclusively to art making and produced over 450 pieces.
Typically painting with a single brush, wiped clean between colors, he used semi-gloss house paint on large pieces of plywood and Masonite that he foraged from the streets. Unlike most self-taught artists, he often worked from his own photos of buildings and animals rather than from memory. Boldly expressing his interpretations of architectural forms, religious subjects and nature studies in bright colors and broad, patterned brushstrokes, Hawkins was able to create a sense of motion in his work.
Hawkins Bolden (1914-2005) lived his entire life in Memphis, Tennessee. As a child, he dreamt of becoming a professional baseball player, but after his twin brother accidentally hit him in the head with a bat during a game, he began to suffer seizures. At age 8, he collapsed to the ground and was struck blind.
When he wasn’t busy building radios from simple materials, Bolden gathered up discarded objects to fashion “scarecrows” for the small garden outside his family’s house. Bolden’s sculptures were made from old pots, buckets and oil drum lids that he punctured with holes (to make eyes) and decorated with carpet remnants, tubing and rags (for tongues) and were suspended from poles around the yard to keep away the birds.
The creations of these two artists, one possessing a keen sense of touch and the other a unique vision of the world around him, have a powerful impact when viewed side by side in this exhibition.