First published: Winter 2010
Along the banks of Alabama’s Black Warrior River near Tuscaloosa, I first met some of the giants of American folk art. The Kentuck Festival of the Arts, one of the finest events of its kind, provided the opportunity to meet Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Reverend Howard Finster, Danny the Bucketman, Myrtice West and many others. The experiences were profound and memorable. Just a few years back while strolling the amazing displays of art at Kentuck, I saw a group of heavy stone carvings which I found irresistible. The artist stood over them and my first meeting with Tim Lewis began.
This was the first of many meetings and dialogues with the gifted Lewis, a self-taught American original whose creations suggest that he will continue to be a growing force in the folk art world.
Although Lewis has his stone carvings in the collections of contemporary art superstar Red Grooms and in the homes of scores of other prominent collectors, he is not yet a household name.
That can be explained in part because of the stone medium that is so difficult to shape and not fully understood by many folk art enthusiasts. However, many of the cognoscenti knew enough to trust their instincts about this modest man with the astonishing ability to create such powerful stone carvings, as well as a few museums – among them the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, The Huntington Museum (West Virginia), Columbus Museum of Art (Ohio), the High Museum of Art (Atlanta, Georgia) and the Mennello Museum of American Art (Orlando, Florida) – strong and early perceivers of Lewis’s talent that own examples of his work. The Folk Art Society of America also knew, and they bestowed upon him a special honor – ‘Artist of the Year,’ in October 2007.
As if all that were not enough to validate him it seems that now one thing finally has. Tim Lewis was given a one-man travelling museum exhibition focusing exclusively on his works in stone – ‘Time Made Real: the Carvings of Tim Lewis’.