Editor's note: The Morris Museum of Art provided source material to Resource Library for the following article. In addition, the essay contained in the gallery guide for the exhibition titled Beyond This World: Paintings by Lorenzo Scott was rekeyed and reprinted below on July 26, 2007 in Resource Library with permission of the Morris Museum of Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the article or essay, or if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the gallery guide containing the essay, please contact the Morris Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:
Beyond This World: Paintings by Lorenzo Scott
July 14 - September 9, 2007
Beyond This World: Paintings by Lorenzo Scott, featuring sixteen paintings by one of Georgia's most renowned visionary, self-taught artists, opened at the Morris Museum of Art on July 14, 2007. The exhibition remains on view though September 9, 2007.
Lorenzo Scott lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. For many years, he has systematically studied Old Master paintings in the High Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as reproductions in art books and magazines, in order to assimilate the style and methods of Renaissance and Baroque masters. Equally notable are Scott's frames, which are handcrafted from scrap lumber and acquired frames. Built up with Bondo, and coated with gold paint, they represent an attempt to replicate the elaborate gilded frames he has seen on European masterpieces.
"The path that Scott chose is similar in many ways to a guild apprenticeship in the medieval, Renaissance, or Baroque eras with one distinct difference -- there was no master artist to guide him during his term of apprenticeship," according to Karen Towers Klacsmann, curator for research at the Morris Museum of Art and organizer of the exhibition. "With a talent for drawing, acute observation, and an iron will, he looked to actual paintings to silently reveal the methods and techniques of artists who had produced spectacular works of art hundreds of years ago."
The illustrated brochure that accompanies this exhibition contains an essay by Karen Towers Klacsmann, as well as a checklist of the exhibited paintings, all of them drawn from the collections of the Morris Museum of Art and collector Jim Farmer.
About the artist:
Born in West Point, Georgia, in 1934, Lorenzo Scott moved with his family to Atlanta when he was a child. Scott realized at an early age that he had a talent for drawing, but did not develop his artistic talent until he had moved to New York City in 1968. There, he was inspired by the artists selling their works on the sidewalks, as well as by the masters whose works hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When he returned home, he embarked upon a personal course of study at the High Museum of Art where he immersed himself in the Old Master paintings, learning composition, iconography, glazing, color, contrast, and other technical aspects of painting from direct observation.
Although a devoutly religious Southern Baptist, much of Scott's work contains spiritual elements that often follow the iconography of the Roman Catholic Church. He is concerned with good and evil and the power of angels, and admits to having religious visionary experiences. In the early 1990s, he began to explore secular themes that contain personal references to an idyllic vision of an earlier era, when Scott believes life was simpler.
He received the Folk Art Society of America's Award of Distinction in 2002. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the American Folk Art Museum in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Morris Museum of Art.
Beyond This World: Paintings by Lorenzo Scott
by Karen Towers Klacsmann
Curator for Research, Morris Museum
When describing an artist like Lorenzo Scott and providing a contextual framework for his art, several terms are typically employed, but each distorts his unique approach to his work. A folk artist or an outsider artist usually works in relative isolation, often in a rural environment and with little exposure to historic or current artistic trends and movements. This is hardly a description of Scott, who lives and works in the greater Atlanta area and systematically studied paintings at the High Museum of Art, as well as reproductions in art books and magazines, in order to assimilate the techniques of Renaissance and Baroque masters. Self-taught or visionary are more accurate descriptions for Scott; however, both imply a lack of formal training and operation outside of artistic convention and do not take into consideration the role of mainstream art as a teaching tool. Two other characteristics peculiar to Scott are his business savvy and the opulent frames he creates to emulate those on many of the paintings that inspire and influence him.
The path that Scott chose is similar in many ways to a guild apprenticeship in the medieval, Renaissance, or Baroque eras with one distinct difference -- there was no master artist to guide him during his term of apprenticeship. With a talent for drawing, acute observation, and an iron will, he looked to actual paintings to silently reveal the methods and techniques of artists who had produced spectacular works of art hundreds of years ago.
Lorenzo Scott was born in West Point, Georgia, on July 23, 1934. One of eleven children, he moved with his family to Atlanta when he was a youngster. Scott attended public school until the tenth grade and admits to being an unmotivated student, but he realized from an early age that he had a talent for drawing. The family lived on Matthews Street across from a Baptist church, where they were active members, and the artist continues to be grounded by his religious faith and tradition. Never married, he worked in construction and carpentry and as a house and sign painter until taking up art full-time in the late 1990s.
In 1968, Scott boarded a bus and moved to New York City, where he was inspired to develop his artistic talent. He noticed people selling their art along the sidewalks, and he visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He spent four of the next five years in New York City before returning, once again by bus, to Atlanta, where he began studying the collection at the High Museum of Art.
Scott visited the High Museum of Art frequently over the course of several years. Overwhelmed at first, he formulated a plan in which he studied single elements of paintings that interested him. By careful observation, he was able to absorb lessons in composition, oil glazing, and iconography. Scott settled into a pattern of working during the day and painting at night and on the weekend. He augmented his field trips to the museum by studying reproductions of masterpieces in art books and magazines and on postcards. Devoutly religious, Scott early on painted works that were spiritual in nature and often followed the iconography of the Roman Catholic Church.
Scott believes that good spirits watch over and provide for him and occasionally uses visions, which occur while he is sleeping, as subject matter. His established routine for painting begins while he is listening to classical, gospel, or Christian music. Without the use of preliminary sketches, he underpaints the surface in blue and then adds figures in white before adding color. After applying several glazes, he varnishes his work. He works on several pieces simultaneously. Scott is ever on the lookout for furniture or frames that have been discarded or sold in thrift stores, and he uses these items in his work. His unique style pays homage to the old masters but also incorporates his personal visions and interpretations. In addition to his self-imposed painting apprenticeship, he developed a method of framing his work by using scrap lumber or acquired frames, which he embellishes with Bondo, a material used in automobile body repairs, and then paints gold to replicate elaborate gilded frames.
He began selling his work on an Atlanta street corner in 1983, but he dismisses his early work as being done before he really knew how to paint. Revelations: Visionary Content in the Work of Southern Self-Trained Artists at the Atlanta College of Art in 1986 was the first exhibition in which his work was included.
In Christ on the Cross (fig. 1), the position of the Christ figure's head is reminiscent of the position seen in Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece, a seminal work of the Renaissance in northern Europe, but with a vantage point and halos that show Scott's artistic license. The painting is decorated with several frames that have been built up with Bondo and painted gold. The Last Supper, Mary and the Baby Jesus, and a triptych painted on a piece of furniture (fig. 2) illustrate Scott's assimilation of his years of studying religious paintings. The Creation (fig. 3), an abstract painting, reveals Scott's personal vision of the beginning of the universe.
There are business and marketing aspects to Scott's artistic production. When he noticed that some customers preferred paintings that were not religious, he began to explore secular themes and current events in his paintings. Untitled (fig. 4) pays homage to Manet's Olympia, which caused an outrage when exhibited at the Salon of 1865 in Paris. End of the World (fig. 5) was painted about a year after Scott's 1993 solo exhibition, An Unexpected Orthodoxy: The Paintings of Lorenzo Scott at the Springfield Museum of Art in Ohio, but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the chaos of September 11, 2001, with the skyscrapers, broken airplane, flames, and "911" prominently displayed on the emergency vehicles. Although represented by several art galleries, Scott has continued to sell his work at various times on street corners, in an art gallery he established with his nephew, and from a rented booth at an antique market.
Whether focused on the powerful forces of good and evil at work in the world or on a fantasy world of a bygone era when life was simpler, Scott takes pains to portray a life beyond the mundane: angels and devils struggling with each other, or children playing in a lush and peaceful landscape meant to portray the beauty of life. Also present in such scenes may be a self-portrait of the artist, recognizable with his hat, easel, and completed canvases.
A series of photographs taken of the artist by Ted Oliver, who collects Scott's work, influenced one self-portrait (fig 6). Dressed in a suit for his solo exhibition at Kennesaw State University and wearing his ever-present hat, the artist appears self-assured and mimics the saintly poses found in his religious paintings. Perhaps he is regarding all there is to see beyond this world.
Lorenzo Scott was honored with an Artist of Distinction award from the Folk Art Society of America in 2002. He celebrates his seventy-third birthday during this exhibition and still resides in Atlanta, where he continues to paint. His work is included in the collections of the American Folk Art Museum, the High Museum of Art, the Morris Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Tubman African American Museum.
(above: Lorenzo Scott, Christ on the Cross, 1998. Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia; donated by the Folk Art Society of America in memory of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr.)
(above: Lorenzo Scott, Mary in the Clouds, circa 1985, Oil on furniture, 34_ x 37_ inches. Collection of Jim Farmer, Atlanta. Photographed by Scott Fields.)
(above: Lorenzo Scott, Untitled (Self-Portrait in Four Poses), undated, Oil on canvas, 23_ x 49_ inches. Collection of Jim Farmer, Atlanta. Photographed by Scott Fields.)
Editor's note: Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Nicole McLeod of the Morris Museum of Art for her help in obtaining permissions to reprint the above essay.
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