Charlie Lucas

(all the pics in this post are ones I took at his house/yard in Pink Lily, Alabama)

The University of Alabama Press sent me the new Charlie Lucas Tin Man book – and can I tell you? Gorgeous.

Well, not gorgeous just because of the photography (Chip Cooper = great), but gorgeous because it’s not just another coffee table art book with giant pictures. The entire first half of the coffee table-sized book is taken up with photographs of the artwork heavily supplemented with Ben Windham’s (yes, KTW’s son) interview with Charlie Lucas.
I’ve talked with Charlie before, my husband has visited with him, and he’s loved on my babies at Kentuck. I thought I knew his story (in simplest terms: Charlie hurts his back, has several children to support, asks G-d to help him, G-d tells him to make art). Well, like most anything, it’s so much more than what you expect or know on the surface.
Charlie Lucas is a deep man.
Charlie Lucas' Place In Pink Lily, Alabama
Here are some excerpts:

Can you imagine me, a poor black man, get up one morning and tell my family that I’m fixing to do the Story of the Tin Man and people was going to seek me out for many different things…

(after his dream) I told my kids to write up this statement about what I was saying and I went to friends’ houses to sign this. I said, “I’m fixing to do the Story of the Tin Man and I would like for you to to sign this saying that I come to you and told you this story.”

They signed it just to get him out of their homes. Spoke poorly about him afterwards. But his dream was true. And it’s still becoming true, and he lives by its ‘rules’ to this day.

Charlie Lucas' Place In Pink Lily, Alabama
There are so many elements to his story: at seven years old, he was responsible for cooking for his family, looking after four other children, changing diapers. He had a dream of studying classical music and becoming a ballet dancer. He left home at 14 and sent money to keep the family fed and housed. He nearly killed his father when he came home and there was nothing in the house to eat but flour and water.
But nothing in the book comes close to the story begun on page 75 under “Spirits” about his great-grandfather, blacksmith, witch-doctor, guardian of the fire. And the whole guardian of the fire section…the authority… I can’t do it justice so I won’t even try. Incredible.
Charlie Lucas' Place In Pink Lily, Alabama

See, the things people don’t understand about an artist, when the idea come in his head, it faces many other ideas. So the thing is, is to take that one of out of the way. That way, the rest of ’em don’t jump on it and go to fighting with it.

Charlie Lucas' Place In Pink Lily, Alabama
That’s why I tell people, I don’t want to keep up with this, I just want to create with it. I don’t want to feel like this is the other side of me that I should have went to school, that I should have wrote the names and the titles and all that. Yes, I should have that. But I don’t have it. And the more I try to do it, the more frustrated it gets in my head. Then it distracts me from other things that I want to do. And then I’m stuck over into a world that I don’t even know how to swim in.

So I drown in it.
Charlie Lucas' Place In Pink Lily, Alabama
The discipline will give you the speaking language to it.

That’s the part you got to practice every day. It’ll give you the speaking language. That way, you can walk and see something and it’ll speak back to you, say, “Here I am, this is where you need to take me over to this part of yourself.” And it’ll tell you what it is. But if you running after it just because you want the name and the fame and stuff, it ain’t gonna talk to you.
Charlie Lucas' Place In Pink Lily, Alabama
Love this book. It’s available here

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