Herbert Singleton (1945-2007)

Herbert Singleton (1945-2007) Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, no date acrylic on wood Gift of Albert Keiser, Jr., 2013.10.11 Read at The Art of Poetry at HMA Tracy Fields Eye of the Beholder Inspired by “Eye of the Beholder” by Herbert Singleton September 6, 2016  Dark skin light skin Will we ever just look within? Why must we only see just dark skin or light skin? No judgement of those with hearts of tin GOD will deal with them in the end We were all created equal no matter the color of our skin Beauty is light and dark skin She sees no color He knows no color She admires his light skin A beauty she desires like no other She sees him thru GOD’s eyes Her eyes behold his light skin Her beauty, he sees as a gift He longs to touch her dark skin He sees her thru GOD’s eyes His eyes behold her dark skin He loves to fish She doesn’t know how to fish He teaches her it is all in the wrist She prefers to do it with a twist Behold the dark skin Behold the light skin The eye only sees beauty The heart only know beauty GOD created this amazing beauty Made from GOD’s image, no specific race All uniquely made All wonderfully made The beautiful human race ====================================================

Herbert Singleton (1945-2007)
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, no date
acrylic on wood
Gift of Albert Keiser, Jr., 2013.10.11

Read at The Art of Poetry at HMA
Tracy Fields
Eye of the Beholder

Inspired by “Eye of the Beholder” by Herbert Singleton
September 6, 2016

 Dark skin light skin
Will we ever just look within?
Why must we only see just dark skin or light skin?
No judgement of those with hearts of tin
GOD will deal with them in the end
We were all created equal no matter the color of our skin
Beauty is light and dark skin
She sees no color
He knows no color
She admires his light skin
A beauty she desires like no other
She sees him thru GOD’s eyes
Her eyes behold his light skin
Her beauty, he sees as a gift
He longs to touch her dark skin
He sees her thru GOD’s eyes
His eyes behold her dark skin
He loves to fish
She doesn’t know how to fish
He teaches her it is all in the wrist
She prefers to do it with a twist
Behold the dark skin
Behold the light skin
The eye only sees beauty
The heart only know beauty
GOD created this amazing beauty
Made from GOD’s image, no specific race
All uniquely made
All wonderfully made
The beautiful human race

====================================================

"{Singleton] was a major force in the world of self-taught art, not only in our community, but nationally," said William Fagaly, curator of African art at the New Orleans Museum of Art. "He wasn't imitating anyone else. He had his own voice, a very strong voice. He addressed African-American issues, race issues, inequality and New Orleans traditions like jazz funerals, which are unique to this city. His pieces are not just powerful but beautiful."  (Obituary on August 2, 2007 in the Times-Picayune New Orleans LA. )

Louisiana native Herbert Singleton’s brightly painted woodcarvings are often autobiographical in their picturing of a harsh African-American inner-city life of poverty, drug abuse and violence. However, he also carved biblical stories, Voodoo icons, and scenes of local African-American cultural traditions.

Singleton was the oldest of eight children whose father disappeared when Singleton was around ten years old. He dropped out of school after the seventh grade and then spent most of his time hanging out in the streets of Algiers on New Orleans’ West Bank. He had frequent and traumatic experiences with police; and in view of this and other hostilities in his life, the many scenes of violence and police brutality in his carvings are not surprising. He eventually ended up spending thirteen years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for various drug-related offenses.

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In the early 1970s, Singleton began carving the stumps of fallen trees into totems and  ceremonial canes. By the 1980s, he was carving and painting scenes onto flat wooden surfaces, using only a hammer, a chisel and household enamels. Over time, his work had also become more complicated and political, and had caught the attention of local art collectors including art dealer Andy Antippas of Barrister's Gallery, who has sold Singleton's works since the early '80s. "His pieces were never placid scenes in the community," said Antippas after Singleton's death. "There was always some reminder of what was going on -- the demolishing of the social fabric he grew up with . . . He was simply reporting the facts, choosing those things as a political cartoonist might."

Singleton's carvings have  earned him a following far beyond New Orleans. Most major private folk art collections include his artwork, and his pieces are exhibited in such institutions as The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. And, of course, at HMA.

Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since March 2015.