JOE HARDIN Joe Hardin Main < BACK

(1921-1989) It was another artist who discovered Joe Hardin. Birmingham artist, Virginia Martin, who delivered Meals on Wheels in the section of North Birmingham where Joe lived, recognized the talent of this individual so severely crippled with arthritis, that he was unable to move except in a minimal fashion in the shoulder/arm joints. With brush or pencil pushed between the fingers of his claw-like hands, Joe Hardin persevered until the end, having an occasional visitor thumbtack to the walls of his apartment the paintings as they were finished. Mrs. Martin began bringing Joe discarded matboard on which to work and she, and perhaps others, showed his work along with their own paintings at Birmingham arts and craft shows a few times. A chain-smoker, Joe kept a silver pickle fork which he used as a cigarette holder tied with a blue ribbon to the rail of his bed. If he dropped it, it could be retrieved. Most of his work in the gallery collection was done in the last three years of the artist's life although a few pieces are certainly earlier, probably dating from as early as the 1970s. Much less prolific than most of the other Alabama artists of his generation, he did probably no more than a few hundred pieces. Hardin worked in mixed media on small pieces of discarded matboard or canvasboard that he could handle easily. His subject matter was primarily the female figure, often somewhat erotically posed. It has been stated that he was painting a world that he was physically unable to participate in. At one time prior to living in the North Birmingham apartment, Joe had lived on Birmingham's Southside, near a ballet school. From his window he could see the young dancers come and go, and this probably accounts for the dance motif in the work--not ballet, but a single female figure, usually, nude and dancing freely across a field. A Western motif, (cowboys, Indians, cactuses, cowgirls, and the like) came from some time spent in his earlier years in the New Mexico/Arizona area. The signature he used on some of his paintings--"MJ" represents "Mexico Joe", his nickname from those years.

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