Category Archives: BIPOC Artists

The Dreams of Minnie Evans

Left Minnie Evans The Tree of Life 1962 North Carolina Museum of Art Raleigh NC Right Minnie Evans Day and Night 1962 North Carolina Museum of Art Raleigh NC 1 600x353 The Dreams of Minnie Evans
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Minnie Evans Floral Design c 1965 oil and paint on paper 9 x 12 in 22 9 x 30 5 cm 2 455x600 The Dreams of Minnie Evans

Minnie Evans was a self-taught artist from North Carolina who lived from 1892 to 1897. She is considered one of America’s most important visionary artists. Her artwork was inspired by her dreams and spirituality. She began creating her vividly detailed artworks at the age of 43 after hearing a voice in a dream ask her: “Why don’t you draw or die?”

She drew inspiration not only from the divine, but also from the flowers at the Airlie Gardens where she worked as a gatekeeper. She began selling her work at the gardens, and eventually went on to have a show at the St. John’s Museum (now known as Cameron Art Museum) in Wilmington, which led to several other shows including an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York.

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Evans used a variety of media including crayons, wax, oil, and graphite. She worked on paper, and she also recycled items such as book covers and window shades to create her surfaces. Evans created over 400 artworks in her lifetime. In 2004, artist Virginia Wright-Frierson collaborated with several artists to create the Minnie Evans Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens as a tribute to the life and work of Minnie Evans.


Below are a few links to more info on Minnie Evans:

Painting Dreams by Mary E. Lyons (book)
Minnie Evans at the Anthony Art Petullo Collection
Minnie Evans biography from Airlie Gardens
Minnie Evans lesson plan for educators
The Angel That Stands By Me (documentary)
Art project for kids (video)


Image credits (top to bottom): 

#1 Top Left/ Minnie Evans, The Tree of Life, 1962, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC; Top Right/ Minnie Evans, Day and Night, 1962, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC. #2 Minnie Evans, Untitled, n.d., mixed media on canvas board, 18.50 x 23 in. #3 Minnie Evans, Floral Design. c. 1965, oil and paint on paper, 9 x 12 in. Please note that all images are copyright © of the individual artists or organization and used on this blog for educational purposes. Selling, printing, or repurposing artwork without an artist’s permission is not nice or permitted.

Art History Spotlight: Joseph Yoakum

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Hello! Today I am sharing the work of Joseph Yoakum. Joseph Yoakum (1888-1972) was a self-taught landscape artist who created his drawings from memories of his travels. He traveled extensively due to his employment with a circus, and then with the army during World War I. Yoakum eventually settled in Chicago where he worked various jobs until he began to make art in his 70s. He created over 2,000 artworks within the last ten years of his life!

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The Art of David Philpot

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a Chicago artist named David Philpot. David could fill a room with joy. I worked at a museum where he helped us run workshops for our teacher training program. Students that were usually distracted when visiting our museum would drop their jaws in silence when David showed up carrying one of his incredible art staffs (which were usually about 6 to 8 feet tall). From teachers to students, everyone listened eagerly to every word that David said. I am sharing his art today because his work should be even more widely recognized. 

David Philpot was born in 1940 in Chicago. He was a self-taught mosaic artist and wood-carver who created intricately detailed and embellished art staffs. He used various discarded items to decorate his staffs, including jewelry, shells, mirrors, and beads. David carved the staffs out of locally sourced wood from the Ailanthus altissima tree or Tree of Heaven, which grow like weeds in Chicago. David used to tell his story about being called by a power higher to go outside to the ailanthus trees and cut one down (they are small trees). That was in 1971. It took him about one year to make his first staff. He went on to create 350 more staffs, which are now in collections all over the world.

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Llanor Alleyne

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I am excited to share these exceptional works of art by mixed-media artist, Llanor Alleyne. These really blow my mind. So gorgeous.

Llanor was born in Barbados, raised in New York, and is currently living in Tulsa. Her work is represented by Leonard Tourné Gallery in New York. Llanor’s first exhibition, Fugitive Ecologies, runs through November 15, 2020 and can be viewed online or by private viewing through the gallery. Check it out!

Here is a description of her process from her artist statement:

“Llanor Alleyne’s collages and illustrations explore metaphorical and physical inversion, often employing tearing, cutting, and layering of abstract, figurative, and floral shapes to interrogate empathetic feminine connections to nature while alluding to emotional disruptions that teem just beyond a first or second glance. Influenced by her surroundings as well as imagined landscapes, Llanor creates abstract paintings and drawings on mylar and paper that are the basis of her collages. The lines, colors, and curves of these impermanent abstract ‘first works’ are the vernacular of her recent work—structuring figurative silhouettes and dictating their final emergence as whole, often lone female depictions, while sharing “first work” DNA across several portraits.” 

Learn more about her work at www.llanoralleyne.com. And read this great recent interview with Llanor on Visionary Art Collective.

Featured Artist: Marlon Mullen

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MARLON MULLEN is a painter living in California. He has been a participating studio artist at NIAD (Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development) Art Center in Richmond, CA, since 1993.

NIAD is a visual arts program located in Richmond, CA. that promotes creative expression, independence, dignity, and community integration for artists with disabilities. Mullen is on the autism spectrum and is mostly non-verbal. As with many disabled artists, his art serves as a way for him to communicate and transcend barriers.

NIAD describes this in more detail:

“He certainly has his own understanding of meaning when it comes to words. Specifically regarding the content of his paintings, he has not verbally communicated at length his intent or fascination with the images that he copies. However, his paintings are sufficient in informing us of the nuances of what he sees.”

Mullen works from found photographs or art magazines (Art Forum or Art in America) which he transforms into obscure, bold colors and shapes. His art has been shown at many notable galleries and has been included in several exhibitions. His work was featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial as well as in SFMOMA’s SECA Art Awards exhibition.

Mullen’s work is represented by JTT in New York and Adams and Ollman in Oregon. He is a great example of an artist who was able to overcome obstacles that normally prevent inclusion in the art world.

“Just a few years ago, the idea that artists with developmental disabilities working in progressive art studios could develop serious careers as contemporary artists seemed idealistic and almost unattainable…These contemporary icons of the progressive art studio movement, however, demonstrate the great promise of inclusive culture – highly original ideas and fascinating new paradigms for understanding and defining art-making.”

– Disparate Minds: Marlon Mullen and Helen Rae (February 2019)

If interested in learning more about his work, please visit JTT (for purchase inquiries) or NIAD. NIAD has a long list of other talented artists to explore. Below is a video from SFMOMA showing Mullen working in the studio. Enjoy!


Image credits (top to bottom):
#1 Marlon Mullen, Untitled, 2018, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inches
#2 Marlon Mullen, Untitled, 2018, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inches
#3 Marlon Mullen, Untitled, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 41 x 48 inches

Please note that all images are copyright © of the individual artists and used on this blog for educational purposes. Selling, printing, or repurposing artwork without an artist’s permission is not nice or permitted.


Featured Artist: Kevin Sampson

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We recently returned from a trip to Mystic, Connecticut, where we got to see the work of Kevin Sampson – an incredibly talented self-taught and community based artist living in Newark, New Jersey. His work is currently on display at the Mystic Seaport Museum as part of their artist residency program. 

During the summer of 2018, Sampson stayed on a boat docked near the museum as he and the staff worked on preparing the exhibition. Community members and museum visitors were invited to learn about his work and process.

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Dreaming of Sunshine

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Roy A. McClendon, Jr.
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Al Back
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Mary Ann Carroll

It is Spring here in Maine, and believe it or not, the snow on the ground just melted a week ago. The rain season is taking over, and while the weather is warmer now, there is still a lot to be desired. In the meantime, we are dreaming of lazy days on the beach and sunny weather.

One positive aspect of Maine winters is that we are encouraged to explore warmer climates when possible. On a recent trip to Florida, we had the opportunity to meet Roy A. McLendon, Jr. We even returned home with one of his vibrant paintings. Check out his work!

During our visit, Roy welcomed us into his studio, and we spent some time chatting with him about his work and life. He learned how to paint from his father, Roy McClendon, Senior, who was one of the original Highwaymen artists. We were familiar with the Highwaymen from the documentary, The Highwaymen: Legends of the Road, and learned even more from Roy.

The History of the Florida Highwaymen

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Alfred Hair

The Florida Highwaymen were a group of twenty-six self-taught Black artists who worked in Florida during the early 1950s through the 1980s. Collectively, their body of work consists of over 200,000 landscape paintings. The paintings depict unusually bright and colorful scenes of Florida beaches, trees, sunsets, and other natural settings. The beautiful poinciana tree is featured in many of these paintings, often appearing in a shocking red or purple color.

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The Art of Simon Sparrow

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The first time I laid eyes on Simon Sparrow’s art, I was amazed. The details and the range of objects involved in the making of these is incredible!

Simon was a self-taught artist known for his intricately detailed mixed media assemblages. He was born in West Africa in 1925. At the age of two his family moved to North Carolina where he was raised on a Cherokee reservation. After living in Philadelphia and New York and serving in the army (among other jobs), he eventually settled in Madison, Wisconsin in the 1970s. Sparrow became a well-known street preacher and artist in Madison.

His spiritual beliefs crossed over into his artwork. With inspiration from what he called “spirit”, Sparrow used discarded materials to create his mosaic-like art, including jewelry, plastic figurines and toys, beads, pine cones, glitter, and other unconventional art materials. He even decorated his entire car in glitter and found objects.

Sparrow6 The Art of Simon Sparrow

Sparrow passed away in 2000 at the age of 85. In 2012, he was recognized for his work as a recipient of the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award. His work has been included in several exhibitions and was featured on a 2009 episode of Antiques Roadshow. His art is also included in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Intuit: The Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art.


Project For Kids (Or Adults!)

We recently worked on a project for kids based on the art of Simon Sparrow. As you can imagine, the kids were excited about using the recycled materials to create their work. We did this project with 6 to 8 year old children, but it can be taught to a range of ages, and the materials can be varied based on skill level. For example, older kids can use hot glue guns. With the younger kids, we used a non-toxic glue, Aleene’s Clear School Tacky Glue. Also, in order to prevent a disastrous glitter mess, but still pay tribute to Sparrow’s love of glitter, we used washable glitter pens.

For a full FREE art project plan, please click here. Enjoy! Please let us know how your projects turn out.

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