. . . well, so to speak. This past weekend, illustrator Greg Christie and I launched our new book, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was held on Mother’s Day, and it rained all day. But we still attracted a nice crowd.
Before the event, I spent time in the gallery area where Bill Traylor’s art was on display. It was the largest exhibition of his work to date. Seeing Bill’s actual art for the first time, I experienced many emotions. But mostly I felt pride — pride for Bill. Dude, look at you all up in the High Museum, I thought. Look at you, Bill Traylor. I also felt sad. When Bill died, he was probably penniless. However his work sells for thousands of dollars today. I wished he could have reaped some of the benefits of his fortune. But then I remembered the point of my book: Bill didn’t create art to get rich or famous. He created art for himself, to enjoy the memories of his life.
Bill Traylor didn’t fuss over the details of his art. He used simple lines, shapes, and color. Yet each piece is anything but simple. So much is revealed. Below is one of my favorite pieces (Greg points to the piece). It looks like a couple of fancy people all dressed up for a night out on the town. But before the party begins, they argue with one another. A fierce argument, fingers pointing at each other. What married couple can’t relate to that! The piece made me laugh, same as Bill often laughed when he observed his own work.
We began by signing our books in the gift shop. Then we moved into the gallery area where museum patrons and Bill Traylor fans gathered to hear our talk. I spoke about what inspired me to write the book. I even got a bit of applause at one point when I talked about how, after many years, I became comfortable with my writing voice. It was an enthusiastic group.
Greg did a wonderful job leading the group around the gallery, explaining the book making process. Then he led a brilliant discussion about Bill’s art. It was a wonderful day, and we have plans to do more museum signings together.
Below are a few pictures from the event: