Southern art is as unique as the people that create it. Southern art includes Southern Expressionism, folk art, realism, and modernism, just to name a few styles.
Southern art began within the original settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. However, Southern art took over three hundred years to be officially recognized as its distinctive genre in the early 1960s.
Many Southern art pieces, from mixed media, photographs, sculptures, and even soundscapes, explore and depict Southern places or evoke specific moments in the South's past; some beautiful, some heartbreaking, which convey both the light and the dark of Southern living. Southern art can be an emotional documentary of life experiences in the rural South in bold colors and soft shapes, reflecting culture, traditions, aesthetics, and social issues important to the artist.
Here are a few Southern Artists we think you might enjoy.
Willie Birch's Art captures the very essence of New Orleans. From his earlier creations in color between 1970 and 1999 to his shift to black and white from 2000 to the present, each painting depicts his city from the outsider's perspective as a New Yorker and as someone who has melded into New Orleans rhythm and existence.
He paints subjects he knows and encounters in his life and his paintings while seeking to understand the future of African American heritage in New Orleans. Willie's art showcases distinctive lines, prominent figures, and objects and is almost a visual form of captured life.
Sally King Benedict
Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Sally's art is a release from perfectionism and embracing abstraction. Her work is bright, bold, and new, incorporating elements of a bygone era. Her vibrant works are a testament to letting go of perfectionism in her life, releasing the stress society often places on all of us that feels confining. When she paints, you can feel the freedom of living in the moment as she intuitively paints.
One of her most famous paintings, "Faces," caught the eyes and hearts of critics and collectors alike with her playful pops of color in muddy shades and bursts of color.
Residing in Macon, Georgia, and working in mixed-media paintings and photography, Cedric Smith creates large, provocative paintings that tackle African Americans' absence in advertising and popular brands. Cedric pushes the unseen to the forefront, opening eyes, educating, and celebrating the roles and contributions of Black people and African American history. Cedric Smith explores the little-known details, such as how 25% of the cowboys in the Wild West were Black and how 13 of 15 jockeys competing at the first Kentucky Derby in the late 19th century were black—parts of his Black history he did not even know about. Cedric thought if he didn't know—who else may not?
Cedric's style could be described as figurative realism with elements of romanticism because while he is also painting history, he's illustrating heavily romanticized eras. His works have received extensive critical acclaim both within the U.S. and abroad.
There are thousands of artists all across the Southern states that deserve to be recognized and shared. We hope you've enjoyed this small taste of a few showcased, and we encourage y'all to explore the beautiful Southern artistry of the past and present.