Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor – Midland Shop
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Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor


"Bill Traylor (ca. 1853-1949) is regarded today as one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century. A black man born into slavery in Alabama, he was an eyewitness to history--the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, the Great Migration, and the steady rise of African American urban culture in the South. Traylor would not live to see the civil rights movement, but he was among those who laid its foundation. Starting around 1939, Traylor--by then in his late eighties and living on the streets of Montgomery--took up pencil and paintbrush to attest to his existence and point of view. In keeping with this radical step, the paintings and drawings he made are visually striking and politically assertive; they include simple yet powerful distillations of tales and memories as well as spare, vibrantly colored abstractions. When Traylor died, he left behind more than one thousand works of art. In Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor, Leslie Umberger considers more than two hundred artworks to provide the most comprehensive and in-depth study of the artist to date; she examines his life, art, and powerful drive to bear witness through the only means he had, pictures. The author draws on a wealth of historical documents--including federal and state census records, birth and death certificates, slave schedules, and interviews with family members-- to clarify the record of Traylor's personal history and family life. The story of his art opens in the late 1930s, when Traylor first received attention for his pencil drawings on found board, and concludes with the posthumous success of his oeuvre"--