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Mose T's Art Was an 'Outside' Job

Folk artist Mose Tolliver's subjects were nature, people and animals. His medium was house paint. His canvasses were cabinet doors and discarded table tops. His paintings began as a release from depression and drink, but put him at the forefront of the Outsider Art movement.

Tolliver died this week. Born in 1920 to an Alabama sharecropper, he left school after the third grade. He spent much of his early life working to support a growing family that eventually included 11 children. Then an accident at a furniture factory left him unable to do manual labor.

Starting in the 1960s, Tolliver began painting, hanging his work in his front yard, selling them for a few dollars each. He signed them "Mose T," with a distinctive backward "S."

Today, many of those paintings are valued in the thousands of dollars. He was discovered by the world outside Alabama when his work was featured in a 1982 exhibition of Black American Folk Art at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.

His paintings hang today at the American Folk Art Museum in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Smithsonian Institution and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

His painting style often featured the same images of self-portraits (often featured with crutches), birds and watermelon. Sometimes he incorporated locks of his own hair.

Gallery owner Marcia Webber of Montgomery, Ala., tells Debbie Elliott about Tolliver's life and art.

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