First published: Spring 2008
During the last five years of his life, Frank Albert Jones created a compelling and cohesive body of drawings that place him among the most notable outsider artists of the 20th century, and bear witness to the significance of the visionary impulse in the work of self-taught African-American artists. Confined to a Texas prison during the entire period of his creative activity, Jones developed his strategy for visual expression intuitively and relied initially on scavenged materials. In his drawings, he revealed an alternative, mystical world and documented his ongoing struggle with the entities that populated it.
Jones was born around the year 1900 in Clarksville, Texas. He was among the town's black populace, descendants of slaves brought to Texas from other regions of the American South by early Anglo settlers to provide agricultural labour on the area's cotton plantations. Racial segregation encompassed all aspects of daily life and preserved cultural traditions that had flourished there since the days of slavery, which had ended just thirty-five years before Jones's birth.