Artist finally recognized at age 112
Artists struggling for inspiration should read this amazing story. It's about Frank Calloway, a 112-year-old artist from Alabama who is finally getting recognition for his art. He's certainly paid his dues, as he paints and draws as though it were a full-time job--often nine hours a day.
What's amazing about his art is that it depicts an entirely different era, but is drawn from the artist's own memories. He typically depicts long murals of rural scenes from the early 20th century, sometimes combining the pictures with numbers and mathematical figures.
I'm sure many artists half his age, or even a fifth, actually, would love to have his work ethic and enthusiasm for the craft.
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (AP) -- Bent over or sitting at a table, gripping a ballpoint pen, marker or crayon, Frank Calloway spends his days turning visions from his youth into lively murals -- and at 112 years old, the images of his childhood are a window to another time.
Drawn on sheets of butcher paper and sometimes stretching to more than 30 feet long, the works mostly show rural agricultural scenes, with buildings, trains and vehicles straight out of the early 20th century.
And his colorful creations are gaining more attention in the art world.
The works by a man who has lived about half his life in state mental health centers will be part of an exhibit this fall at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
His caretakers have suspended sales of his artwork until after the show after finding out that some of his drawings could sell for thousands of dollars.
"They are unique in that they are of a rural, agrarian South, and they speak to a time gone by," said Sara Anne Gibson, executive director of the Kentuck Museum in Northport, Alabama, which hosted a monthlong exhibition of Calloway's works two years ago.
Calloway views art as his job and sits at a table by a window drawing for seven to nine hours a day, usually wearing blue denim overalls and a crisp dress shirt, said Nedra Moncrief-Craig, director of Alice M. Kidd Nursing Facility, a state home where Calloway lives.
"He draws all day long except for the time that he spends in activity and eating his meals," Moncrief-Craig said. "That's what he loves to do."
He was born July 2, 1896, and has lived in mental health centers since 1952, when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Moncrief-Craig said patient confidentiality prevents her from discussing his condition in depth but did say he shows signs of dementia. He lives in the geriatric division of the home on the Bryce Hospital campus in Tuscaloosa.
Hoffberger called Calloway brilliant and described looking through notebooks full of numbers he keeps and noticing that there was a definite logical pattern to the strings of figures. There is "an instinctive attraction to math that is so inherent in his work," she said.
Rows of numbers line the edges of some of his artwork, and he sometimes stops in the middle of conversations to methodically recite multiplication tables.
Calloway is content being quietly absorbed in his work, but he also enjoys talking if people ask questions, Moncrief-Craig said. He listens intently and responds at length in a deep, gravelly voice as he rocks gently back and forth, often punctuating the end of a story with a soft chuckle and a huge smile that lights up a broad face that has very few wrinkles.
Calloway is an incredible man in many respects. He is kind and gentle in nature, has a great smile and dresses impeccably. Typically, he loves to wear his new tennis shoes, blue overalls and a cotton dress shirt. He has his own room at Alice Kidd and is a celebrity among his fellow residents and staff. Over the past few years, his celebrity status has deservedly increased due to a unique talent that he possesses.
Calloway, affectionately called “Mr. Frank,” has become quite famous as a folk artist. All day he sits or stands at a table and draws incredible pieces of art on long rolls of butcher paper. He draws farm scenes, street cars, wagons and houses, images that are part of his memory. The images have vibrant colors that stem from Mr. Frank’s artistic flare, and the medium he most frequently uses is crayons. Ten-, 20- and 30-foot murals of red horses, purple mules and delightfully dressed passengers in their wagons are typical of Calloway’s scenes. Using a ballpoint pen, crayons and an elaborately contrived numbering system, Calloway creates pieces of art that are absolutely unique to his style.