Randolph and Howard featured in two art exhibitions at WWU

Contributed photo

Exhibits featuring watercolor art by Mary Randolph of Fulton and American outsider folk art by Jesse Howard, the famed “sign painter” from Fulton, will open Tuesday at William Woods University.

The public exhibit, which ends Dec. 10, begins with an opening reception from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Mildred M. Cox Gallery in the Kemper Arts Center at the university.

The Mary Randolph Retrospective exhibit features watercolors and illustrations by Mary Randolph, a Fulton artist who was a student of famed Missouri muralist Thomas Hart Benton, whose work decorates the House Lounge at the Capitol in Jefferson City.

The other exhibit, “From Inside the Soul: Contemporary Southern Outsiders,” features selected works by self-taught Southerners, including Howard.

Before Howard died in 1983 he became known nationally and internationally for his folk art, mostly signs painted on boards. His hand-lettered signs sometimes admonished politicians, commented on the times and quoted scripture.

Howard comments were incorporated into various constructions and assemblies made from such things as old corn planters, tricycles and a dog-sized cart fashioned out of wood. As a medium for his signs, Howard used available materials on hand, including colored glass, marbles, metal, leather, window shades and wood.

In addition to Howard, the Southern Outsiders exhibit includes works by Georgia preacher R.A. Miller and Alabama artists Jimmy Lee Sudduth and Mose Tolliver. The majority of the artists are African American. Works by Purvis Young and Clementine Hunter are included. All of the talents represented in the exhibit are self-taught.

At 4 p.m. Thursday Kemper arts Center historian Brett Rogers will present an illustrated lecture based on the Southern Outsiders exhibit. There also will be a screening of the 2006 documentary “Purvis of Overtown.” The film chronicles the life and work of Purvis Young, one of the featured artists.

Randolph worked in New York as a fashion illustrator in the 1950s. Randolph, who died one year ago in September at age 93, donated many of her pieces to local charitable fundraisers. Several of these, as well as ones she sold, are on loan to WWU for the exhibit.

Randolph lived in Fulton for the 30 years. In 20 of those years she lived in a studio/house that was built by her husband Joe that overlooked Crows Fork Creek.

Jane Mudd, professor of art at WWU, said the art faculty at the university wanted to remember Randolph’s talent and decided to put together an exhibition of her work.

“Everyone we called who owned one or more of her pieces was more than happy to loan a work for the exhibit. There are some prints and pen and inks but most of the exhibit is of her original watercolors. There are two pieces in the show for sale,” Mudd said.

Mudd said she met Randolph in the late 1980s through the Fulton Art League. “We worked on community projects and also painted together at times,” Mudd said.

Terry Martin, professor of art at WWU, said he met Randolph in the late 1980s. He said she shared some of her memories of working as a fashion illustrator in New York with WWU art students. Martin said he and Randolph shared art concepts, mostly pen and ink techniques and watercolor painting.

Martin said Randolph’s husband sometimes was a model for some of Benton’s studio classes.

Paul Clervi, professor of art at WWU, said he also knew Mary and Joe Randolph. Clervi said Randolph came to the campus to talk with students about here experiences.

“Randolph was an early participant when we had Gallery Docents. She loved to visit and talk about art to everyone who came to the gallery,” Clervi said.

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