Fayette’s Folk Art on Display at Tuscaloosa’s Hotel Indigo

“I think in a lot of ways, our art is a reflection of our community,” said
Scott McQueen.

The Fayette-based folk artist said he was very fortunate to grow up in a town that had a prominent folk art influences. Inspired by artists in his area like Jimmy Lee Sudduth and Reverend Ben Perkins, McQueen’s colorful, religious and patriotic pieces now hang in Kentuck Art Center’s Hotel Indigo Gallery.

Folk art is characterized as being more utilitarian and decorative than its fine art counterparts, which also played a role in McQueen’s upbringing. His father painted oil landscapes, but McQueen says his mixed metal and wooden art pieces reflect the culture and ideas of his rural Alabama upbringing.

“It’s just a reflection of who I am,” he said.

McQueen’s art is a combination of recycled and repurposed materials. He affixes pieces of old car tags or what he calls “toolbox junk” to scraps of old barn wood or scraps of tin from an old roof.

“In fact, I’ve never painted on canvas,” McQueen said. “Maybe one day I’ll try it.”

McQueen started his folk art career with a stack of old car tags he had lying around and now finds the components and embellishments of his artwork in yard sales, estate sales and
junk yards.

“The rustier, the better,” McQueen said.

Thirty-one years in the ministry have shaped McQueen’s artistic style as images of angels, crosses and other Christian symbols are at the forefront of his work.

“I have a strong faith,” he said. “It can’t help but come out in the creativity.”The influence of his faith is evident in his work, but the influence of the folk artists around whom McQueen grew up also shine through his paintings.

McQueen fondly remembers riding his bike over to watch Jimmy Lee Sudduth paint. Sudduth grew to prominence in the folk art community when he was chosen to represent Alabama at the Smithsonian Institution’s 1976 Festival of American Folklife. Some of his work, also painted on wood instead of canvas, can be seen at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s website.

Some of McQueen’s other influences were “Brother Ben” Perkins, a retired minister and local folk artist that sold painted gourds on Saturdays on a bench outside of the grocery store where McQueen worked.

McQueen’s work utilizes patriotic imagery that he says is borrowed from Brother Ben’s work. McQueen said his eyes were always drawn to Brother Ben’s use of the American flag, and one of McQueen’s red, white and blue pieces hangs at the Hotel Indigo with the words of the Pledge of Allegiance artfully splayed across the wooden slab.

Growing up watching his father, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, and Brother Ben Perkins create art fueled his passion for folk art. McQueen said, “All of that, along with having a creative spirit of my own, led to what I do.”

McQueen’s exhibition will be on display at the Hotel Indigo until May 21. According to Hotel Indigo staff, two of the pieces sold on the first day.

The Kentuck Gallery in the hotel phases through different exhibitions every few months, and staff members say the artwork is well received.

There will be an opening reception for the exhibition on April 6 at 6pm in the Hotel Indigo lobby. McQueen will be present to answer questions.

When visitors come to see McQueen’s artwork, he hopes they’ll take themselves away with a smile.

“People have enough stress in their lives,” McQueen said.  “And I know for me, art is a reliever of that, creating it and enjoying it; so I hope I can pass that along to somebody else.”


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