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Jimmy Lee Sudduth Portrait

Jimmy Lee Sudduth Portrait

Jimmy Lee Sudduth

Also Known as: Jimmy Lee Suddouth, Jim L. Suddth, Jimmy Lee Suddth, Jimmie Lee Sudduth

Caines Ridge, Alabama 1910

Fayette, Alabama 2007

Photo Caption:
Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Self Portrait with Banjo, 1986, mixed media: mud, paint, and vegetable matter on board, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment 1997.124.40.

Photo Caption:
Originally photographed by Chuck Rosenak. Image is courtesy of the Chuck and Jan Rosenak research material, 1990-1999, in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Luce Artist Quote

"I'm gonna be fay-mous, fay-mous! I didn't learn much in school---Just learned to write my name---Jim. But I believe I'd rather be famous, than rich or smart." Jimmy Lee Sudduth, quoted in Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia, 1990


Jimmy Lee Sudduth's fertile imagination has led him to paint self-portraits, dogs, television personalities, and the architecture and landscape near his home in Fayette, Alabama, as well as views of New York and other cities. In Big City Skyline, rows of people filing across a bridge toward a crowded mass of towering skyscrapers emphasize the anonymity of life in America's large cities. Sudduth's materials—mud mixed with sugar water and color extracted from weeds and vegetables—are no less inventive than his themes. He rarely uses canvases or brushes, preferring to use his fingers to paint with clay, mud, sand, and soot on plywood.

Lynda Hartigan Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (exhibition text, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1999)

Additional Biographies

Luce Artist Biography

Jimmy Lee Sudduth remembered drawing shapes in the dirt as a child. He also made his own charcoal from wood coals and used it to draw all over the inside walls of his house ("Jimmy Lee Sudduth Paintings To Be Exhibited At Museum," September 1971, Chuck and Jan Rosenak research material, 1990-1999, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution). Sudduth created mud paintings by applying a mixture of earth and sugar to pieces of plywood with his fingers. He rubbed weeds, berries, and soot over the mud to get different colors, and claimed that "You can paint a thousand dollars worth of pictures with just a cupful of sugar." (Nancy Callahan, "Plywood for his canvas, turnip greens for paint, old houses as subject," The Christian Science Monitor, July 23, 1980)