One of my summer’s efforts was to make a series of drawings on a four-foot by two-foot format that included a figure and landscape with relevant text around the border. This image, “BP is the Bully…” is one of five drawings completed using this set of guide-lines. I have used songs as references in past work, less so in recent years.
As I pondered this format, I decided to revive the use of references to music and songs in my text acompanying this group of images. “BP is the Bully…” is referring to a song named “Bully of Town,” which I heard on a 1920s-era recording by Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers. The same recording I first heard twenty-five years ago can be found and heard on youtube, and I listened to it recently there.
I know most viewing this piece with its reference to BP and the spill in the Gulf, do not know about the song I’m referencing. I also couldn’t help adding commentary about the contentious interaction between Republicans and Democrats with “Republicans are Bullies Shouting Liberals Down…” Most viewing this piece obviously “get” the Democrat-Republican message as well as BP dominating our Gulf these days, as well as the oiled pelican in the chest of the “bully” depicted in the center of the piece. I’m waiting to encounter a viewer who knows bluegrass music well enough to know the song “Bully of the Town” and “get,” without me explaining, the full impression I would like to evoke in viewers.
I have made four other images in this same format and have shown them along with “Bully…” at two-day festivals in Atlanta, Ocean Springs, and Northport, AL. I’m not sure I’ve gotten more than a respectful response so far. I’m hoping someone will see these works exactly as I’ve conceived them, wanting to find someone who knows the song references along with the appreciation of the visual and textual parts of these drawings. I know my work has no interest among the rich or influential in the art world. But among the educated intelligentsia unconnected to formal art criticism or the art-world-industrial complex, I am warmly received day in and day out and I appreciate that reward for having spent so many years making art that is obviously original and able to affect open-minded human beings.