Bill Traylor has been a personal favorite since a kid. My old man is an elementary school art teacher and by passion a musician, so it was a norm hearing about artists/painters in the same fashion as music. I was probably in the 2nd or 3rd grade when my dad introduced me to the blues, and it was through Bill Traylor. I remember swinging by Staples so he could print out a bunch of images, get back to his apartment, and CD’s from greats like BB King, R.L Burnside, and Lightning Hopkins were in rotation accompanying these illustrations.
As for Bill, he was born in 1853 in Alabama during some of the darkest times in American History. Witnessing slavery, the Civil War, and Jim Crow-era segregation, like most artists and musicians, he never got the recognition he deserved. It wasn’t until he was in his 80’s and homeless when Traylor began to draw. Posting up at street corners, using pencil stubs and any paint he could find, the man started producing work that only an old blues recording could mirror.
For those unfamiliar with his work, definitely recommend doing a quick read – click here. Here are some images of his work which was recently displayed at the Davis Zwirner East 69th St. Gallery in New York. We got a lot of time on our hands given this quarantine – figured I’d just pass on some of the stuff I’ve been revisiting.