Hill had discovered folk artist Lucy Hunnicutt, who paints color-drenched scenes from memories of her mostly African-American neighbors in the tiny town of St. Marks, Fla.
calls herself an "outsider artist," but she
fits as comfortably as an old quilt in other folk art categories.She
had no background in art when she
began painting at age 39 and had a sudden urge to paint after a dream.Born in 1950 in rural Alabama and a graduate of the University of Alabama in American studies, she was working in a high-stress corporate job in Texas when, in 1989, she realized she needed to change her life.
"Let me calm down before I have a real nervous breakdown," is how she
described how she
felt, in a phone interview from her
home in Elberta, Ala.She
moved to Tallahassee, Fla., where she
had friends, but the longing for an even sharper break from urban life took her
to St. Marks, population 272.Hunnicutt
, who is white, rented a house that had been part of a land grant to African-Americans after the Civil War."There were two churches at each end of my street," she
painted other dreams and memories on scraps of wood but then fed them into the fire until a friend saw some and asked to hang them in his
barn.A Florida gift shop owner saw them there and bought them.She
soon visited Hunnicutt
began selling her
work at festivals."I couldn't call myself an artist for a long, long time.One day, I realized, I'm making my living at this."Hunnicutt
no longer travels the festival circuit.Her
work is shown at galleries in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, New Orleans and now Asheville.A set decorator for Paramount Pictures
paintings in New Orleans and bought them to use in the Queen Latifah movie "Last Holiday."
is making "word paintings," in which strings of vividly colored text meander across the canvas."I've realized lately that I'm always telling stories to myself," she
"Sing On Sunday" by Lucy Hunnicutt
is among her
works on exhibit at American Folk Art & Framing
, 64 Biltmore Ave., Asheville.
($800).Enlarge this photo
...What:"Ritual Wisdom Revealed," paintings by Alabama folk artist Lucy Hunnicutt.
Bold primary colors dominate Lucy Hunnicutt's
"Monday Wash." ($650).Enlarge this photo