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)
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)