Twenty-Three Colors of Dirt
Jimmy Lee Sudduth was a prominent and beloved self-taught artist, often regarded as among the great Southern outsider/folk artists of the 20th century. Sudduth was the son of a medicine woman and would accompany his mother into the woods, searching for berries and herbs; it was on these walks that he began drawing on trees with mud and sticks.
“Brushes wear out and my fingers don't. When I die, the brush dies too.” – Jimmy Lee Sudduth
He’d return the next day to see that the drawings had washed away until, by happenstance, he mixed the mud with a little syrup and found that this "sweet mud," helped the drawings stick. This early intimacy with his surroundings led him to create paintings of his everyday life with mud, berries, soot, rocks, iron, sand, chalk and house paint, using his fingers instead of brushes. "It was all there in the ground, every color of dirt and mud," he once said, "I got twenty-three colors of dirt in my own yard." Sudduth depicted his small rural town of Caines Ridge, Alabama, the people that lived there, his successive dogs (all named Toto), animals, plants and self-portraits. Later, when he began traveling to cities to exhibit his work, he also started painting buildings, skyscrapers and urban scenes. His treatment of his subjects is direct, immediate and expressive, full of affection for the world he lived in, with its many stories and colorful inhabitants.