28 September 2008

Florida Highwaymen

The most recent SACOLIST report on LCSH additions had a note about the proposal for "Florida Highwaymen (Group of artists)." I don't think I'd heard about them so I checked it out. It refers to a group of African American artists, mostly men, who traveled about selling their paintings from the trunks of their cars. The paintings are somewhat evocative of Hudson River School paintings and/or the seaside views of someone like Martin Johnson Heade. Or perhaps a garish combination. The image above, from the floridahighwaymen.com site, makes a wonderful backdrop for my computer at work. The men used this approach to selling their work because they were not likely to get gallery shows and a black guy couldn't just go around with a stack of paintings. Many of them were trained artists but these trunk sales were a way they were able to get their paintings sold, a way available to them as black Americans. (They probably didn't make as much as Damien Hirst made in his Sotheby's auctions.)

But what about the subject heading proposal? It was refused as a subject heading with the caveat that they could be established as a corporate name. The old NAF/SAF debate. It seems to me that since a critic invented the name, and even though some of the surviving Highwaymen use the name, that it's more like a movement (subject heading) than a corporate body (name).

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