What started out as some simple advice to a young
man from his father has turned into a long-term commitment that has benefited many deserving American folk artists and their families. Doug Gitter, who was in his 20s at the time, had interests in both art and history.
As noted by Doug, "My father told me he thought it would be a good thing for me to take a drive to meet some of these self-taught artists. Their stuff wasn't contrived - it was from the heart. It really spoke to me."
Doug took his father's advice to heart and has dedicated over 20 years to the promotion and recognition of American folk artists.
One of the first artists that Doug went to visit was Bernice Sims in Brewton, Alabama. "I heard her story, how her husband deserted her and she had to raise six children on her own with no formal education. She expressed herself through memory painting - things she remembered from her childhood." On that fateful day, Doug bought one of Ms. Sims' paintings and has gone on to meet and help many other American folk artists who he heard about just by word of mouth. As noted by Doug, "I would go to visit one artist and they'd suggest I go see another one down the road."
Over the years, Doug and the Gitter Gallery have accumulated an impressive collection of American folk art. Along the way, Doug and his family have given back to the community in a number of ways including the donation of art pieces to the Batson Children's Hospital located in Jackson, Mississippi. Check out this You Tube Video to see the wonderful artwork and the difference it has made for the community and the many children and families served by this hospital.
The Gitter Gallery Donates
American Folk Art to Batson Children's Hospital
Clementine Hunter is another artist that is an important part of the Gitter Gallery collection. Born in 1886 as a descendant of slaves, Ms. Hunter produced approximately 5,000 paintings. She continued to paint until her death in 1988 at the age of 101. As noted by Doug, "What Clementine Hunter did was paint about plantation life in the rural South prior to mechanization - picking the cotton, working in the pecan groves, washing clothes in a kettle. She was the only American artist who really captured what life was like back then. I think the reason her work is so admired is because people are really nostalgic in this country and Clementine painted a part of history people can relate to."
Pecan Picking by Clementine Hunter
In order to both preserve and promote the work of this great American artist, Doug designed some wonderful and affordable ceramic pieces. At a trade show in Atlanta, the ceramic pieces caught the eye of some of the staff members of Oprah Winfrey. It was Doug's daughter, Annie - a middle school student - who actually gets credit for the connection. As noted by Doug, "The first day of the show, two people approached Annie and she starts telling them about Clementine Hunter and Melrose Plantation. She looked at the badges they were wearing and they said they were with O Magazine." Annie said, "Dad, I think you need to talk to these people." Doug stepped in. After a 45 minute conversation, Doug heard some great feedback from the staff members as follows: "Oprah's going to love this." Eventually, one of the Clementine Hunter ceramic pieces - Baptism on Cane River - was selected and featured in O Magazine as one of Oprah's Favorite Things for 2013. Like Doug Gitter, Oprah Winfrey has a certain appreciation of American folk artists whose passion and life experiences are so beautifully and vividly reflected in the artwork.
|Baptism on Cane River by |
Oprah's Favorite Things - 2013
Doug Gitter resides in Metairie, Louisiana, which is just outside of New Orleans. Doug along with his wife (Cathy) and their two children greatly enjoy the culture of Louisiana and being able to give the recognition to American folk artists who really deserve it.