A RECENT EXHIBTION REAFFIRMED THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF HIS TOUCH
by Edward M. Gómez
Perhaps the most remarkable — and essential — detail of the story of the self-taught artist Hawkins Bolden (1914-2005) is that he was blind. So it is that, when assessing the originality, inventiveness, and all-around strangeness of the mixed-media assemblage sculptures he produced using found materials, the word “visionary,” which is often overused in the outsider-art field, seems ironically more appropriate than ever.
Bolden is one of the Black self-taught artists of the American Deep South whose life and art-making career were documented by the late researcher, collector, and curator William (“Bill”) S. Arnett, who died in 2020. Arnett was based in Atlanta, Georgia, where he founded the Souls Grown Deep Foundation to serve as a custodian for many of the works made by remarkable autodidacts like Bolden, which he amassed over many years. The foundation was also a clearinghouse for the publication and diffusion of Arnett and his collaborators’ research about such artists in the form of books and exhibitions.
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