Amazing Grace: Self-Taught Artists from the Mullis Collection, an exhibition of paintings, sculptures, constructions and works on paper from the private folk art collection of Carl Mullis, will be on display at the Georgia Museum of Art from Sept. 29–Jan. 6.
This unique and stunning exhibition will feature 90 works, including some by recognized folk masters such as Thornton Dial, Howard Finster and Sister Gertrude Morgan. This exhibition, however, also brings some much-needed attention to a collection of outstanding but relatively unheralded contemporary artists. Several Georgia artists are featured, including Alpha Andrews, Ned Cartledge, Ulysses Davis, Willie Jinks, Nellie Mae Rowe and Lorenzo Scott, among others.
The focus in the existing scholarship on self-taught art has often been upon spiritual and visionary imagery. Amazing Grace, however, does not focus primarily on religion, but on the wide thematic interests of the artists, including politics and pop culture.
Carl Mullis is an Atlanta collector who first developed a passion for art during his time as a student worker on scholarship at Yale University’s Art and Architecture Library. After completing his studies at Yale, and then at Emory University’s law school, Mullis went to work for the U.S. Department of Justice in Atlanta and soon began to purchase prints.
The majority of artists in the Mullis Collection have spent their lives in the South, though some were born or raised in the region and then moved to other areas of the country. A handful of artists produced work out of other regional experiences, such as Chicago and California.
Most of the self-taught artists featured in Amazing Grace find inspiration in personal experiences, nature, everyday life and popular culture.