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Smithsonian Institution Collections

Self-Portrait with Banjo

Self-Portrait with Banjo
Smithsonian Museum
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Description
Jimmy Lee Sudduth starts his mud paintings by drawing the outline with a “dye-rock,” a soft stone sometimes used by Native Americans to paint their skin. He then fills in the shapes with a mixture of mud, sugar, and paint, and rubs leaves and berries over the top for more color. (Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia, 1990) Sudduth uses the sugar so that the mud will harden, and sometimes even adds honey or Coca Cola to the mixture. (Nancy Callahan, “Plywood for his canvas, turnip greens for paint, old houses as subject,” The Christian Science Monitor, July 23, 1980) In this image, he applied only three colors to create a vibrant self-portrait. The deep blue of the background and the bright white of the figure’s clothing emphasize the rich, earthy tones of the mud he used to “paint” his skin.
“This is somethin’ new. This is somethin’ the art people ain’t got---in the whole world.” Jimmy Lee Sudduth, quoted in Nancy Callahan, “Plywood for his canvas, turnip greens for paint, old houses as subject,” The Christian Science Monitor, July 23, 1980
Artist
Jimmy Lee Sudduth, born Caines Ridge, AL 1910-died Fayette, AL 2007
Sitter
Jimmy Lee Sudduth
Jimmy Lee Sudduth
Date
1986
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
Medium
mixed media: mud, paint, and vegetable matter on board
Dimensions
49 x 25 1/4 in. (124.5 x 64.1 cm)
Type
Painting
Folk Art