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Roger Brown’s ‘Visit the Oregon Coast,’ a 52in-tall oil on canvas from 1979 with a 3-D platform for four taxidermy seagulls, carries the auction’s highest estimate: $100,000-$200,000. Though academically trained, the Alabama-born Chicago artist collected and drew inspiration from Southern folk art. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

Contemporary works invited to the self-taught art party at Slotin, April 22-23

Roger Brown’s ‘Visit the Oregon Coast,’ a 52in-tall oil on canvas from 1979 with a 3-D platform for four taxidermy seagulls, carries the auction’s highest estimate: $100,000-$200,000. Though academically trained, the Alabama-born Chicago artist collected and drew inspiration from Southern folk art. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction
Roger Brown’s ‘Visit the Oregon Coast,’ a 52in-tall oil on canvas from 1979 with a 3-D platform for four taxidermy seagulls, carries the auction’s highest estimate: $100,000-$200,000. Though academically trained, the Alabama-born Chicago artist collected and drew inspiration from Southern folk art. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

BUFORD, Ga. – After 30 years of offering folk art and sundry other forms of untrained artistic expressions on the auction block, Steve Slotin approaches Slotin Folk Art Auction’s Spring Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale with the same fervent enthusiasm he exhibited in the beginning. Even if he’s claimed previously that this or that auction held the best art he’d ever assembled, Slotin is persuasive in proclaiming the April 22-23 sale as Slotin Folk Art’s best grouping yet. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

“Piece for piece, this is the best auction in our 30 years of doing it,” he said, motioning around the packed auction hall, a funky former neighborhood grocery north of Atlanta. “There may have been greater pieces here and there, but as a collection, I think this is the best grouping I’ve ever seen. If you were to put this into a museum show, there would be rave reviews. People would say, ‘I was able to see great examples by a lot of different artists. Super impressed!’ But not only can you see it, this is the only place where you can buy museum-quality pieces from beginning to end.”

Joseph Yoakum is represented by four landscapes, including ‘Mt. McKinley Near Petersville, Alaska,’ a circa-1956 colored pencil and ink on paper estimated at $15,000-$25,000. Another Yoakum Alaska drawing topped Slotin’s 2022 spring sale at $40,000, exceeding the catalog estimate. Some of the Chicago artist’s landscapes were remembered, some imagined. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction
Joseph Yoakum is represented by four landscapes, including ‘Mt. McKinley Near Petersville, Alaska,’ a circa-1956 colored pencil and ink on paper estimated at $15,000-$25,000. Another Yoakum Alaska drawing topped Slotin’s 2022 spring sale at $40,000, exceeding the catalog estimate. Some of the Chicago artist’s landscapes were remembered, some imagined. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

This sale’s selection is deep but also unusually wide. There are more than 200 artists – many familiar, some never shown before – represented in the 709 lots. They include strong examples by the Greatest Generation of self-taught masters from the mid- to late 20th century, including Joseph Yoakum, Howard Finster, Sam Doyle, Thornton Dial and Edgar Tolson. The Black woman artists from the South that Slotin has championed in recent years – including Minnie Evans, Nellie Mae Rowe, Clementine Hunter and Inez Nathaniel Walker – stand out and should be counted. A sampling of artworks that fit into “The Strange, The Unusual, The Vanishing America,” Slotin’s favorite broad catchphrase for his sales, are represented, too. Key examples include a hand-carved walking stick of Dolly Parton being chomped by a gator and a set of eight miniature 1940s-1950s Coke machines made from painted cardboard. You want it, this Self-Taught Art Masterpiece sale seems to have it. It’s the work that lives outside of Slotin’s usual categories that may surprise some bidders.

Another view of Roger Brown’s ‘Visit the Oregon Coast,’ estimated at $100,000-$200,000. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction
Another view of Roger Brown’s ‘Visit the Oregon Coast,’ estimated at $100,000-$200,000. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

Close to the front of the catalog, where Slotin usually showcases its hottest, high-estimate folk lots, are five pages of works by indisputable contemporary artists – the late Chicago Imagist Roger Brown, the British figurative drawing duo Hipkiss, Pop-influenced Ed Paschke and Mississippi nature artist Walter Anderson. Brown’s Visit the Oregon Coast, a 52in-tall oil on canvas with a 3-D platform for four taxidermy seagulls, carries the auction’s highest estimate: $100,000-$200,000.

Period image of Roger Brown posing with his 1979 work, ‘Visit the Oregon Coast,’ estimated at $100,000-$200,000. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction
Period image of Roger Brown posing with his 1979 work, ‘Visit the Oregon Coast,’ estimated at $100,000-$200,000. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

Paschke’s oil on canvases Holy Stick Man and The Optimist are each individually estimated at $50,000-$75,000. The auction catalog’s cover image, a Steve Ashby carved and painted mixed media figure with a cigarette clinched in his lips, is another 40 pages back and sports a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.

Steve Ashby’s cigarette-smoking male figure, clearly a character, commands the cover of Slotin Auction’s Spring Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale and has an estimate of $2,000-$3,000. Ashby’s favorite subjects were figures and animals, often inspired by agrarian life in Fauquier County, Va., where his ancestors had been slaves. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

Steve Ashby’s cigarette-smoking male figure, clearly a character, commands the cover of Slotin Auction’s Spring Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale and has an estimate of $2,000-$3,000. Ashby’s favorite subjects were figures and animals, often inspired by agrarian life in Fauquier County, Va., where his ancestors had been slaves. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

So, is Slotin Folk Art changing its colors? Hardly, said Steve, who views the contemporary invasion as a kind of overdue validation for folk art. He said that for years, he’s told folk sellers and collectors and self-taught artists they should stop chasing acceptance in the contemporary field. “I’m like, ‘No, we’re our own field, we’re the greatest art form that America has ever produced.’”

He notes that Roger Brown collected folk art, and Ed Paschke’s father was a folk art carver and that there’s a long history of trained artists looking to untrained artists for inspiration. (See Picasso, Pablo.) Slotin said the collectors who want to include their contemporary pieces in a folk art auction “are moving the needle forward.”

Edgar Tolson’s ‘Black Adam and Eve with Colorful Snake in the Garden,’ rendered in carved and painted wood and estimated at $10,000-$15,000, is a rare example by the accomplished Kentucky carver featuring a Black Adam and Eve. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction
Edgar Tolson’s ‘Black Adam and Eve with Colorful Snake in the Garden,’ rendered in carved and painted wood and estimated at $10,000-$15,000, is a rare example by the accomplished Kentucky carver featuring a Black Adam and Eve. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

Or maybe they’ve just noticed that Slotin Auction moves art, and the prices it realizes are steadily rising. In Slotin’s Fall Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale last November, the auction house shipped pieces across the country and internationally. Mostly American-made folk art landed in some exotic spots: a Roy Ferdinand painting in Dubai, Billy Ray Hussey folk pottery in Canada, and a Z.B. Armstrong doomsday calendar in France, to name a few.

Minnie Evans is one of a group of Southern Black woman artists who Steve Slotin has championed. ‘Angels, Pegasus and Devil,’ a 1979 crayon, paint and graphite estimated at $3,000-$5,000, is a strong example of the florid dream scenes the North Carolina artist tried to capture upon waking. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction
Minnie Evans is one of a group of Southern Black woman artists who Steve Slotin has championed. ‘Angels, Pegasus and Devil,’ a 1979 crayon, paint and graphite estimated at $3,000-$5,000, is a strong example of the florid dream scenes the North Carolina artist tried to capture upon waking. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction

“I just think it is so much fun to imagine the work of Roy Ferdinand telling the hardscrabble struggle of life on the streets of New Orleans hanging in a collection in Dubai,” said Amy Slotin, Steve’s wife and business partner.

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