JIMMY LEE SUDDUTH Jimmy Lee Sudduth Main < BACK

Born in Caines Ridge, Alabama, he is a black artist who has achieved recognition for his colorful paintings made with mud, sugar and natural pigments. The Sudduths live alongside the tracks of the Southern Railroad, "out back" of the white community of big Victorian houses facing the road. He had little formal education, and his teachers said he would like to draw then learn his subjects. Before he started to paint full time, he worked in the nearby farms and at a gristmill. He and his wife, Ethel, worked on the Lumpkin White farm for twenty-five years. In 1950, they moved into town where Sudduth does odd jobs, mostly as a gardener.

His paintings are made of mud, which he claims he has been doing since he was three years old. In the late 1960s he started appearing at county fairs with his harmonica and his mud paintings, and that is when others began to learn of his work. He is best known for his fanciful renditions of the residents and buildings of Fayette, Alabama. He has depicted its churches, houses, and public buildings, including the jailhouse. He also paints animals, including Toto, cars and log cabins.

Sudduth uses plywood and outlines the image with what he calls a "dye rock." They are soft stones that he claims that Indians used to paint their faces with. After they are dipped in water they leave a heavy line on the surface. He mixes mud and sugar water, and applies this to his painting. The sugar binds the mud to the surface of the board. He then gathers weeds and vegetable matter and rubs them on the paintings surface to apply more color.

In addition to being known for his painting, Sudduth has quite a reputation for his blues renditions on the harmonica. He has played in local groups and in 1976 he performed at the Smithsonian Institution's bicentennial Festival of Folklife.

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