Physical artifacts are displayed in our TOUCH Gallery. Click the hand to enter the gallery. Click the subjects name for more biographical information.
Open Touch Gallery
All of the objects in this gallery were made or used by artists who participated in the Center's 1982 Mid South Folklife Festival on Mud Island on the Mississippi River in Downtown Memphis. Varied in materials, themes and designs together they form a unique look at the Memphis/Delta region. Yazoo, Mississippi's Pecolia Warner made all kind of quilts. Many are featured in the Center's documentary film Four Women Artists. A very creative quilter Pecolia Warner would see an image, go home and design a quilt. One day she would see an American Flag, the next day she'd design one. She took creative license with Betsy Ross' original and made her stripes red, white and blue - and without enough room for all 50 stars - this quilt has 48. After seeing the poster for the 1982 Festival she made her own festival quilt design complete with the seeds as musical notes.
In the 1980s we worked with a number of Asian communities who found refuge in the Memphis region following the United States withdrawal from Southeast Asia. Many of those with whom we worked were members of the Hmong Tribes who were forced from the hills of Laos. The bold red, green and yellow cotton tapestry with geometric designs is called pandau and the embroidered child's cap with tassels was made in Memphis by the Lee Family. The leader of the community, Giatout Lee, his wife Ka Lee and their children assisted the Center staff in learning about their community and their travels from Laos to the United States.
Painter Alice Moseley used her art to tell stories about her youth and Southern life. The first painting called On The Road Again describes a family auto adventure in the 1920s. The car packed with the family's worldly possessions broke down on the road. The women and children are sitting and playing, the chickens are on the side of the road, and father and son look under the hood. The second painting shows W. C. Handy, the father of the blues, looking down on Beale Street. Alice Moseley's use of color and stories make each painting a unique oral history.
Henry and Georgia Speller lived in South Memphis and spent hours on their porch or at their kitchen table making crayon pictures of their neighborhood, church, friends and family. This drawing is called Neighborhood and shows many houses and steps converging to the street.
Older musicians taught Othar Turner to make fifes from bamboo canes that grew near his home in Gravel Springs, Mississippi. Very few folks could make a cane much less actually make lilting music come from the fife. In the Center's early film Gravel Springs Fife and Drum shows Othar Turner harvest the cane, make the fife and blow the fife with his band at his annual picnic where people swapped stories, ate barbecued goat and danced to the music until late in the evening.
James "Son" Thomas made this watermelon sculpture after he attended the 1982 Festival. Yes, those are real watermelon seeds embedded in the painted clay sculpture. This watermelon sculpture is a departure from Thomas's face and bird sculptures.
In the African American tradition of making walking sticks the carver would carve the sticks to resemble an elder or friend in the community. Made from cedar Luster Willis carved sticks honoring his neighbors but he expanded his world by watching television. Thus the second stick is aptly called Mr. Ed Sullivan, named after the legendary television host. The grouping of sticks against the tree are from left to right Gerald Ford, Ed Sullivan, Red Foxx, and his neighbor.
Sharon, Mississippi native Leon "Peck" Clark would cut down the best white oak tree, pull the wood into long strips and make baskets like the utilitarian baskets ones in this exhibit. As a youth Peck Clark made large cotton baskets but as time changed he found the smaller baskets were more saleable. In the1970s he sold his oak baskets against new plastic baskets, his major competition.
Thomastown, Mississippi native W. G. Lovorn could make a chair or table or rocker that was beautiful and would last a very long time. Later Lovorn's son Joe took over the trade. You can always tell W.G Lovorn chair. He signed his name under the left arm of each rocker.
Before Rufus Thomas was recording at Sun Studio and later at Stax he was an entertainer traveling in shows like The Rabbit Foot Minstrels. In the See Video Gallery of this exhibit Rufus Thomas took the audience back to the days of variety shows at The Palace Theatre on Beale Street and performed a tap dance routine learned as a child. The tap dance shoes in the exhibit are the shoes Rufus Thomas is wearing in the 1982 performance. Rufus wore the platform shoes at the same show when he got the entire audience to stand up and Do The Funky Chicken as heard in the hear gallery.