Article

One Bible, Two Preachers: Patchwork Sermons and Sacred Art in the American South

Carol Crown

in The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199204540
Published online May 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199204540.003.0024

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

One Bible, Two Preachers: Patchwork Sermons and Sacred Art in the American South

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This article examines how two Southern vernacular artists — one working in the late 19th century and the other at the end of the 20th — responded to the Bible, what they took from it, and how they made sense of what they learned. Within the century that separates Harriet Powers, the former slave, and the Revd Howard Finster (c. 1915–2001), space-age illustrator and folk-art icon, religious imagery dominates the creations of contemporary folk artists in the South. Moreover, untold numbers of both black and white artists found inspiration in the Bible. Making art intended for a variety of purposes — devotional, didactic, proselytic, and also as social commentary — these untutored artists searched the Bible to find meaning for themselves. Looking at the art of Harriet Powers, a black woman and former slave, living a century ago, and the creations of a feisty Baptist preacher who died in the 21st century, underscores not only the many differences they share but also a startling number of similarities.

Keywords: Harriet Powers; Howard Finster; Southern folk art; religious imagery

Article.  7240 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Subjects in Art ; Religious Studies ; Christianity

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