By Denise Turney
Mose T A to Z: The Folk Art of Mose Tolliver introduces art lovers and a broad range of eclectic book readers to a natural born, self-taught drawer and painter they may not otherwise meet. The style the book’s author, a writer, artist and photographer named Anton Haardt, uses to bring Mose T to readers is indicative of Mose T’s creative style itself. I couldn’t help but to think that Haardt is perfect to write this book.
The fact that Haardt is an artist in her own right coupled with the fact that she not only has a strong appreciation for Mose T and his work but also the fact that Haardt knows Mose T and has known him for more than thirty years lends a credence, a validity, to the book that gives the book a down home feel. This spirit of ease and familiarity is sufficiently balanced with a sharp Art IQ.
It is rare, though not as frequently as it used to be years ago, for a self-taught artist to have his work, that he once hung in his own front yard for passersby to look at and enjoy and perhaps purchase, placed on display at places like The Smithsonian Institute, The New Orleans Museum of Art, the Museum of Birmingham, Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, American Folk Art Museum in New York and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
Focus and education about the Folk Art world is rich throughout the book’s pages. I especially enjoyed reading about Mose and Willie Mae, Mose’s wife of fifty years and mother of his twelve children, visit to the Corcoran exhibition in Washington, DC. Pictures of Mose’s work are dispersed throughout the book as are photos of the artist himself as he goes about his every day life, seemingly unaware of the talent that he holds. Mose’s artistic IQ is innate; the book celebrates this talent spectacularly.
Yet there is another story buried beneath the art in Mose T A to Z: The Folk Art of Mose Tolliver. It is the story of the artist himself, not simply the art he created, and the story of the artist’s family. It is the dance, the love, of a man and a woman who met when they both were children and who went on to share half a century together. Readers will be inspired by the way Mose T takes up art after a slab of marble falls on his feet at the furniture store where he worked. Mose T would spend his remaining years, as of the writing of the book, in a wheelchair. To bring Mose T out of his depression following the accident, a fellow colleague, Raymond McLendon, encouraged Mose T to paint.
The book clearly illustrates the connectedness of life. An unforeseen accident led a man, Mose Tolliver, to unlock his artistic talent, a talent that very well may have otherwise remained dormant, a talent that has been shared with and appreciated by countless people, children and adults, around the world. Mose T did not create to impress. The book’s author created the book with that same spirit. Mose T A to Z: The Folk Art of Mose Tolliver is a book to be enjoyed and treasured now and for years to come – just like Mose Tolliver’s work.
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