College of Communications and Fine Arts Art Museum of the University of Memphis
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Coming Home! Self-Taught Artists, the Bible and the American South

Jim Shores



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 forever.

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 art;
  • 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.

[Religion] [104]

Jim Shores (b. 1952)
“Taking up Serpents, Speaking in Tongues, Singing God’s Praises,” 2003

Found objects

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.

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Last Updated: 10/24/12