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Kamante Gatura

June 14, 2011

Sam's Piece by Herbert Freeman

I received this image from a gentleman named Sam Venus who purchased this from Mr. Freeman this past weekend.  Congratulations Sam!


Kamante Gatura (1912-1985) was a Kenyan national of the Kikuyu tribespeople.  As a young boy his family exchanged work for wages and the right to live on the undeveloped farmland of Karen Blixen, better known by her pen name Isak Dinesen the author of  the memoir Out of Africa.  Mr. Gatura became Blixen’s cook and good friend and is featured in the memoir.

He was also a self-taught artist who captured life in Africa with crayon and colored pencils.  Along with Dinesen and the photographer Peter Beard he wrote a book called Longing For Darkness: Kamante’s Tales from Out of Africa which contains stories of his life with Dineson as well as folk tales of his people.

Kamante Gatura photo by Peter Beard

Pointy Boots

April 24, 2011

The Protagonist by Herbert Freeman

This past March Vice reported on a regional men’s fashion phenomenon that is taking place in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi and specifically emanating out of the  city of  Matehuala.  Pointed boots have long been a popular style in Mexico, but these vaqueros have brought pointedness to a new level.

Stephen J. Martin

April 11, 2011

Rich's Piece by Herbert Freeman

Rich, who works Downtown, emailed me this photo of a piece he recently acquired from Mr. Freeman.  Earlier, on the same day that Rich sent me his photo, I happened upon a 2009 Al Jazeera video about Stephen J. Martin.  That video and this post in Taxidermy are the only references to Mr. Martin I could find.

Chicago cartoonist Stephen J. Martin

Mr. Martin is a homeless man who spends his days drawing his comic books in Chicago coffee shops.

Helen La France

October 17, 2010

Family by Herbert Freeman

Born in 1919 in Graves County in western Kentucky Helen La France has been painting since she was a young child.  Her mother used to make paint for her using laundry bluing and different plant materials such as dandelion, walnut bark, and berries.  Helen never attended high school and has had no formal art training.

The Mexican School of Down Art

September 16, 2010

Ronnee by Herbert Freeman

The Mexico School of Down Art which began as a recreational activity for the clients of the John Langdon Down Foundation has blossomed into its flagship program.  The school offers formal training in the fine arts for students with Down syndrome of all ages and economic backgrounds.  The mission of the school is to “promote social integration, reaffirm identity, and elevate the self-esteem of people with Down syndrome.”

Art exhibits featuring the work of the school’s students have been mounted from Asia to Europe and the Americas.

Jesse Montes

September 15, 2010

Leona by Herbert Freeman

Jesse Montes took up art in 1990 in order distract himself from worrying about two of his children who were called to duty for the first Gulf War.  He began by creating frames for photographs of his family from corrugated cardboard that he salvaged from his work as a school custodian.  Then he was inspired to create pictures to put inside the frames made from the same material and coloring them with acrylic paint.  By cutting the cardboard at different angles and then gluing the pieces together according to design Mr. Montes can achieve a variety of textures and subtle color variations.

Mr. Montes’ artwork has been purchased by private collectors and museums around the world.

Augustin Lesage

September 14, 2010

Little Debbie by Herbert Freeman

Augustin Lesage (1876-1954) was from Auchel in France where he worked as a coal miner beginning at age 14.  At the age of 35 he heard a voice while in the mines telling him that he was to be a painter.  A year later Lesage becomes involved with a circle of friends who are exploring the claims of spiritualism, a religious movement that had begun in the United States and was winning supporters in Europe.  Through automatic handwriting Lesage receives a message from the spirits that the voice he heard in the mine was real and that he must paint.

He buys paint and brushes and orders what he believes to be a small canvas.  What arrives is a canvas that is three meters long.  The spirits tell him that he must not cut the canvas but paint the whole thing.  Over the next two years Lesage works on the painting after returning from long hours working in the coal mine.

Lesage begins to practice healing with the help of the spirits and is prosecuted by the authorities for practicing medicine illegally but is acquitted.  The following year he is deployed as a soldier in WW I.  After the war Lesage returns to work in the mines and paints everyday after work.  He develops a style of bilateral symmetry where the left side of the painting mirrors the right side.  He claims that his painting is directed by the spirits and that he acts as a medium for their expression.

In 1923 Jean Meyer the publisher of the spiritualist journal La Revue Spirite becomes Lesage’s patron and he is able to quit working in the coal mine and devote himself to his painting.  Lesage completed over 800 works in his career.

The First Painting