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Jimmy Lee Sudduth (1910-2007)

Gallery C has a long history of bringing forward some of the finest in naive, folk, and outsider art. Jimmy Lee Sudduth, along withWoodie Long, Lonnie and Twyla Money, Howard Finster, Mose Tolliver, Syble Gibson, and many others have all been featured in exhibitions over the years. The honesty with which these artists create art after what they see around them continues to amaze and humble even the most jaded art lovers. Jimmy Lee Sudduth is renowned for his use of mud, mixed with sugar and paint as media, techniques he began developing as a child. Sudduth is a living tribute to those who are driven to create with or without support and resources.

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Jimmy Lee Sudduth was born March 10, 1910 in the Cain Ridge community of Fayette County, Alabama. Jimmy grew up in the home of his stepfather and his Indian mother, who practiced herbal medicine. This was perhaps the inspiration for Sudduth to make paintings from the materials of nature. Finger painting with various colors of mud-earth, sometimes adding colors from weed, flowers and berries, became his vehicle for describing his world in images. He remembers making his first drawing as a small child on a tree with mud and charcoal, while his mother collected her “medicine plants.” The rain washed away the first drawings, but later Sudduth discovered that when he added he added syrup or honey, they would last.

Jimmy Lee Sudduth attended school through grade school and then worked farms and ground corn meal in his rural birth place. At a young age he married an Indian girl and they had one daughter. After his first wife died, he married Ethel Palmore, who remained his companion until her death in 1992. He and Ethel adopted a boy named Rance Maddov who became an artist himself, but who tragically drowned. In 1950 the couple moved into the town of Fayette and Sudduth worked as a handyman and a gardener.

In 1972 long time friend Jack Black organized the first exhibition of Sudduth’s artwork at the Fayette Art Museum. Later, Jimmy was selected as one of the two artists to represent Alabama and travel to the Smithsonian Institute for the Bicentennial Festival of American Folk Life in 1976. The Birmingham Museum of art exhibited his paintings soon after in 1978. Sudduth has continued to be featured in many different venues including the show, Passionate Visions, which toured nationally in 1995 and included a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.

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