UWA’s University Art Collection receives Sudduth work

Billy McFarland, left, presents a Jimmy Lee Sudduth painting to UWA Provost David M. Taylor.

The University Art Collection at UWA has increased through a recent donation by a University of West Alabama staff member. The collection now includes an original painting by Alabama artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth.

Sudduth’s painting depicts an old, rustic schoolhouse in shades of brown with highlights of black, white and red. This is the first Sudduth piece in the collection.

Sudduth’s first public art exhibition was held in 1968 at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa. His artwork gained national attention when he appeared on the “Today” show and “60 Minutes” in 1980. Sudduth’s artwork is featured in collections at the Smithsonian Institution, the High Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the House of Blues.

Born in Caines Ridge, Ala. in 1910, Sudduth started paining when he was only three years old. As a child, Sudduth began collecting pigments from clay, earth, rocks and plants for use in his finger paintings. He would mix his homemade paint with common substances—soot, axle grease, sugar, coffee grounds and more—to help the paint adhere to the plywood that he found from demolished buildings. Sudduth’s art often depicted everyday life in Alabama, portraits of people, houses, farm animals and his favorite dog, Toto.

Sudduth died in his lifelong hometown of Fayette, Ala. on Sept. 2, 2007 at the age of 97. In an interview quoted in the catalog of one of his exhibitions, Sudduth said, “I paint with my finger ‘cause that’s why I got it, and that brush don’t wear out. When I die, the brush dies.”

Billy McFarland, director of UWA’s Center for Business and Economic Services, donated the piece from his personal collection.