I have temporarily run out of photos of Herbert Freeman’s artwork. It may be some time before I am able to post some more. Rather than put this blog on hiatus I have decided to head each post with the work of another of Orlando’s best folk artists: Morgan Steele. I will post Mr. Freeman’s work when it again becomes available.
In the autumn of the year 2000 some large tooled-leather pictures by a then unknown self-taught artist were paired with the works of a distinguished academically trained artist. The exhibit was called Southern Exposure: the Works of Winfred Rembert and Hale Woodruff. Both the artists depicted life for African-Americans in the segregated South of the Jim Crow era.
Hale Woodruff (1900-1980) trained in Paris and on his return taught at Atlanta University and later at New York University. He was a tireless advocate of African-American art in the United States. Winfred Rembert was born in 1945, abandoned by both his parents while still an infant and raised by his Aunt who was a field worker in rural Georgia. Rembert himself began working in the fields while still a young child and was poorly educated.
When Winfred Rembert was 19 he was sentenced to 27 years in prison. While in prison he learned how to tool leather wallets. He also taught himself how to read and work with numbers. He was released after serving seven years. Rembart married and relocated to New Haven, Connecticut. After an injury prevented him from working as a laborer his wife suggested that he tool into leather the stories he use to tell about his life around the supper table.
Rembert worked on the pictures while his wife supported the family working as a bus driver. Rembert was able to show his work to Jock Reynolds, the director of the Yale University Art Gallery, after meeting him in the spring of 2000. Those pictures were remarkable and paired well with the Woodruff linocuts the gallery had recently purchased. The Southern Exposure show was put together for later that year and Rembert’s career as a serious artist was launched.
While Rembert is mainly known for his large tooled leather paintings he has also created a series of handbags. This website features those “story bags” and also has some audio links where the artist gives a brief explanation of the work.