Vintage Vignette - July/August 2018
- story and photos by Grace King
The phone rang from the Shoofly Magazine and I knew a new Vintage Vignette assignment was coming down the pipeline. Editor Ellis Anderson was on the other end swooning about a lamp she had just bought from French Potager (214 Main Street).
“Let’s do a story about Hobo Art,” she suggested.
In my mind, I pictured a ceramic hobo with a red nose and patched jacket leaning against a lamp post that said “BAR” on the glass.
Honestly, I always wanted a lamp like that. I was envious as hell and was curious about a whole genre of such art.
I sent her a picture of what I was envisioning and I could hear her laughing from miles away.
In fact, the lamp she bought didn’t have a hobo on it at all. It was made from popsicles sticks and glass bits.
This art form has been traced back to the 1870s and began to die out in the 1940s.
Magnolia Antiques often carries carved knives called Trench Art, a similar art form that refers to decorative items made by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians affected by wartime who were often literally stuck in the trenches and needed a project to take their mind off their conditions. Of course, they had to work with the materials they had at hand - toothpicks, pieces of scrap wood, wire, popsicle sticks, etc.
I’d seen these rustic forms of art, especially in the Delta, but never knew about Tramp Art.
His paintings and assemblages fashioned from scavenged materials hung proudly in the New Orleans Museum of Art during a popular exhibition in 2012 called “Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial.”
Patrons were so moved by his show that the museum now houses 10 pieces of art from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in its permanent collection. His extraordinary body of work continues to garner recognition.
It’s easy to find primitive art and furniture in the antiques shops of Old Town once you know what to look for.
Antique Maison has some truly one-of-a-kind large-scale pieces. Right through the doorway, shoppers can see a tall form of early folk art — a cupboard with original paint, copper screens and square nail construction. It’s certainly a unique piece made from reclaimed materials long ago.
Spencer Gray Jr. at Gallery 220 is also known for his fun, vibrant creations and yard art, also made from colorful brick-a-brack. He creates smaller pieces and larger one-of-a-kind sculptures that are filled with animation and delight collectors.
Bay Life owner Janice Guido says several of her customers now collect Derr's work, vying for first shot at them when he brings in new pieces.
Find them and bring them home before they hit the road.