James Harold Jennings
North Carolina (1931-1999)
James Harold Jennings likely created over 4,000 works of art, most of them in the last fifteen years of his life. During those years, he worked everyday from sunup to sundown on his painstakingly detailed wood constructions. He made everything by hand because he chose to live without electricity.
When I first met Harold in the spring of 1985, his art environment in Pinnacle had blossomed into a roadside attraction where he welcomed visitors from around the world.
Jennings' work evolved from an early devotion to form to a focus on surface design in later years. He became a more fastidious painter and developed an increasingly sophisticated sense of color and patterning. His original style results from the unusual combination of a contemporary artist's assimilation of cultural influences and the obsessive singular vision of an outsider artist.
His work is a hybrid of Appalachian art traditions, his innate sense of expression, and a wide range of contemporary influences from such sources as comic books, tabloids and National Geographic. He masterfully integrated artistic elements from many cultures; often utilizing the zigzag shapes of Indian textiles and dot patterns similar to Aboriginal art. Elements of Jennings’ unique philosophy based on spirituality, astrology and the occult also pervade his work. He is one of few Appalachian vernacular artists to have embraced abstraction. The best pieces are engaging on an abstract and intuitive level that is sophisticated yet without pretension.
His humorous works may be his most popular. They reveal his original fashion sense: a variation of 1960's Go-Go meets Laura Ashley. Though his famous “fight scenes” are amusing, many are also striking, action filled compositions.
George Jacobs Self-Taught Art
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