Monday, November 27, 2006

My Land is Bare of Chattering Folk

Sister Gertrude Morgan [1900-1980]
God’s Greatest Hits, 1978
Tempera on paper
Let us Make a Record is a chanting, spiraling sermon delivered in minimalist gospel music form. New Orleans art dealer Larry Borenstein and a British sound engineer Ivan Sahrrock captured the measured tambourine and inspired voice of folk artist Sister Gertrude Morgan in 1970. This and another 13 songs were the Sister’s one and only formal recording session.

Let Us Make a Record was re-mastered by Benjamin Jaffe and re-released on Preservation Hall Recordings in 2004. The record came to the attention of Philadelphia DJ and record producer King Britt who took the bare bones original recordings and infused them with a soulful, contemporary vibe releasing his hybrid version in 2005.

The Preservation Hall re-mastered Let Us Make a Record can be purchased here.

King Britt Presents: Sister Gertrude Morgan can be purchased here.

Sister Gertrude Morgan is best known for her revelation in 1957 that she was the “Bride of Christ” and her subsequent folk art paintings that often depict her, along with scripture, in the company of her husband/lord savior. In all of these depictions, she is shown in all white “uniforms” and environs as seen in her work “God’s Greatest Hits” (above). In another painting she is shown aboard a jet piloted by Christ en route to Heaven that is famously known as “Jesus is My Airplane.”

A lot of people discount the paintings and songs as child-like and paroxysmal. There is a lot of misunderstanding around Sister Gertrude Morgan and other marginalized “outsider” or “folk” artists. The work is self-taught and visionary. It is inspired by the word of God and is not concerned with the dictates of formal Western art. There is immediacy in their vision and their expression is didactic and purposeful. For those viewers who can look past the negation of formal perspective and spatial relationships you can see an aura of fantastical, intuitive charm and, ultimately, the importance to the cultural history of the American south.

Further reading:
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum (re-opening in 2007)
American Folk Art Museum
American Visionary Art Museum

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