I returned from a great adventure in Savannah in January, hunting for folk art in flea markets and antique stores, visiting museums, and traveling through Gullah country in South Carolina. On my journey with my best artist buddy, Kathy Pinkerton, we photographed two bottle trees, one on the historic island of St. Helena, SC, and the other right around the corner from Kathy's home in Savannah. The bottle tree was in front of a huge African-American/Gullah folk art gallery named Red Piano Too.
Bottle tree's can be traced back to African origins. Sarah Fishburn just sent me this blurb from The House of Voodoo:
"The belief in and use of spirit bottles can be traced back to 9th and 10th century Congo where colorful bottles, traditionally cobalt blue, were placed on the ends of tree branches to catch the sunlight. It was thought that when an evil spirit sees the sunshine dazzling from the beautiful bottles, it is enamored and enters the bottle. Like a fly, the spirit then becomes trapped within the bottle; too dazzled by the play of light, the spirit prefers to remain in its colorful prison, rather than trouble the world of the living."
I spent the week asking about memory jugs, and on the last day, in the last hour of my trip, Kathy and I got lucky at the Telfair Art Museum in Savannah. Here is a shot of the only jug they had on display in the children's area of the museum, under the category of, "What is this?" It was beautiful. It is the first jug I have ever seen in a museum, besides my own at the Loveland Museum. It is only the third antique jug I have seen in person in the 14 years since I bought my first one.
An interactive computer display next to the jug helps kids or adults to decipher its true meaning.
Here is a shot from Kathy Pinkerton's altar exhibit at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2002. I love this Madonna altar! Missed the exhibit, unfortunately, but was still living in Blacksburg, Virginia when Kathy was working on this shrine.
Kathy Pinkerton's altar
The most brilliant piece of folk art we found was in Savannah, in a neighborhood outside of the historic district. It was created entirely of papier maché by artist, James Kimble, and is called The Black Holocaust Memorial. Kathy had the opportunity to buy a smaller version of the memorial, which was equally beautiful.