Coming Home! Self-Taught Artists, the Bible and the American South
WHAT IS COMING HOME!
SELF-TAUGHT ARTISTS, THE BIBLE AND THE AMERICAN SOUTH?
Coming Home! is an exhibition of 122 paintings and sculptures by 73 Southern artists, of whom
46 are African American. It is the first comprehensive exhibit to explore the impact
of evangelical Christianity on the work of contemporary Southern folk artists.
The main title, “Coming Home,” refers to the New Jerusalem, God’s eternal kingdom
prophesied in the Bible, where at the end of time faithful Christians will reside
The subtitle outlines the exhibition’s theme, the relationships among the work of
self-taught artists, religion and Southern culture.
“Self-Taught Artists” do not learn their methods or concepts in schools, and some
have little schooling of any kind. Their techniques often develop from experimentation
with materials readily at hand. Many begin to make art as an escape from life’s difficulties
or because of a need to express strong beliefs or feelings.
“The Bible,” which for many evangelical Christians is the literal word of God, the
final authority in all matters of individual and collective human behavior and the
absolute predictor of the world’s future, is a major source of inspiration for the
work of Southern self-taught artists.
“The American South” is the cradle of a complex and rich social, political and cultural
history that is intricately woven with religion, which stands at the center of community
life for most people.
In each of the exhibition’s four sections, Southern Religious Life, The Garden of
Eden, The New Adam and The New Heaven and Earth, you will find labels that address
ideas related to the themes:
Art—the relationship of the work of self-taught artists to historical and contemporary
Religion—the theology and practice of evangelical Christianity;
Southern Culture—the relationship of this visual art to Southern life, including its
music, literature, folk and popular forms of expression.
Jim Shores (b. 1952) “Taking up Serpents, Speaking in Tongues, Singing God’s Praises,” 2003
Collection of Carl and Marian Mullis
Assembling cast-off materials to create this over life-size statue, Shores draws upon
a religious tradition inspired by the Bible (Mark 16:17-18) and most often associated
with Appalachian Pentecostal holiness churches whose members practice serpent handling.