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Masters Are Hot—Others Not

Marty Steiner | April 20th, 2013


Four Sam Doyle paintings on found metal sold. Dr. Buz Halo, 41" x 25", also had a conch shell “held” to the ear. Accompanied by Doyle’s original 1984 bill of sale and his legal agreement with Dr. Regenia Perry to be his agent, the lot brought $34,500 (est. $10,000/15,000).


With the same estimate, Doyle’s Dixie Syrup, 25" x 30", did even better at $35,650.


A Doyle self-portrait titled UNK, 23" x 17", more than tripled estimate, reaching $42,550.


One of the three Howard Finster lots offered that predated his numbering system, Great Speckle Bird,1976, sold on line for $18,400. Enamel on wood with the artist’s wood-burned frame, it measures 12" x 16". It’s ex-Chuck and Jan Rosenak and was exhibited at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 1984 in Howard Finster, Man of Visions: The Garden and Other Creations. The estimate was $4000/6000. Thirty lots of Finster’s works were offered at the Slotin sale. In addition, four works by Finster’s grandson Michael Finster were sold.


The sole William Hawkins painting in the sale brought $14,950. This untitled 1983 painting on board measured 48" x 36".

Louisiana artist Clementine Hunter was represented by six lots: four typical memory scenes, an oil on canvas profile of a woman, and a bottle painted with blue and red birds. The non-iconic works of major artists never command the prices of their more typical works. The unusually large (16" x 72") Plantation Life, which combined many of her typical scenes (laundry, cotton baling, and a cotton gin), opened above the presale high estimate of $8000 and never looked back. It closed at $19,550.

Slotin Folk Art Auction, Buford, Georgia

Photos courtesy Slotin Folk Art

The Slotin Folk Art sales have established themselves as a primary source of folk art. As a result, a number of major collectors have downsized through Slotin’s auctions, including Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Lynne Ingram, Dr. Regenia Perry, Salvatore Scalora, Jonathan Demme, and many others. The April 20 and 21 sale grossed just under a million dollars.

The challenge in reporting Slotin’s sales is the high number of artists represented and the many artists who have avid followers. Nearly 1200 lots, the work of nearly 400 artists, were available in dozens of forms and mediums.

Eighty-one lots of pottery were offered, and two well-known pottery families accounted for 34 of these lots. Examples from three generations of the Owen family were offered, many with the Oriental forms and glazes that are virtually unique to the Owens’ work. Ben Owen III continues to work in the Seabrook, North Carolina, area. Six members of the Meaders family of White County, Georgia, were represented, including Lanier with five face jugs and Arie with two vases with grape decoration. There were no runaways or even unusual bids.

Whittled ball-in-cage whimsies were sold in groups of 20. These were followed by a group of seven and a group of 22 carved wood chains that brought $747.50 and $920. The ball-in-cage lots created a phone bidding war with results of $1092.50 to $4255.

After the pottery and whittled whimsies, the stars of the sale began to shine, and the energy in the room began to rise. As people do at the conclusion of the warmup group at a rock concert, everyone settled in for the main event. Even realistic catalog estimates became totally irrelevant. Passion and a sense of economic recovery helped to continue the previously observed pattern of high-end material bringing high-end results. For most in the audience, the true “masters” provided vicarious thrills as bidding appeared to know no bounds.

Three lots of painted wood carvings by S. L. Jones brought strong prices of $1495, $7475, and $7475. On the second day, a group of his drawings did not perform well.

Two Ulysses Davis carved wood relief pieces did well. An early framed shadow box, Samson and Lion, drew $8625, more than doubling the presale estimate. Work by the Archuletas—Felipe represented with three examples and Leroy with a single example—had some minor condition concerns but still drew respectable prices of $1000 to $4830.

Although Charlie Lucas is known as the “Tin Man,” only one of the nine works by him was a tin piece. His Metal Mask,a cut-metal panel with cloth hair and painted features, sold on line for $287.50. An enamel appliance panel with a blowtorched image cut through, signed and titled Herd of Horses,sold in house for $632.50. Three initialed paint-on-panel works, Callin on the Ancestors to Bless My Farm, Ring-Tailed Pole Cat, and Looking for a New Love, brought $632.50, $316.25, and $977.50 respectively.

Twenty-one lots of mud and paint works by Jimmy Lee Sudduth sold. Among the creature images were Wild Duck for $690, Dog with Snake in Dogwood Flowers for$316.25, Alligator Gar for $575, Chicken Call–Jim Favorite for $805, and, of course, Toto,his iconic dog image, for $1495. These last two significantly exceeded high estimates.

The second day of the sale began with 64 lots of Haitian art. Haitian and other international folk art usually achieves mixed results in these sales. Individual works may attract active bidding for no apparent reason. The prices realized for the Haitian offerings in this sale were quite different because of the presence of an apparently well-funded bidder from the Northeast. This bidder won 50 of the Haitian lots while other potential in-house buyers were totally frustrated in their bidding.

Other art forms included stone carvings, twisted wire forms, and found-material constructions. Three artists represented work with bottle caps. Gregory Warmack, aka Mr. Imagination, had seven lots mostly drawn from major collections. His Self-Portrait was made with a ping pong paddle and bottle caps. It sold for $1380, while Bud Mask, a mask made entirely from Budweiser caps, brought only $86.25.

Three river stone carvings by Raymond Coins, all of religious content, reached $1495, $920, and $431.25. Groups of David Marshall’s works included three river stone heads for $316.25, three limestone examples for $287.50, and a pair of larger river stone heads for $172.50. Four Popeye Reed stone carvings ranged from $345 to $603.75.

For information about Slotin events, visit the Web site (www.slotinfolkart.com) or call (770) 532-1115 or (404) 403-4244.

Picking Blackberries by the Roadside by Mattie Lou O’Kelley, signed, dated 1978, and titled, 24" x 36" (sight), garnered applause and sold for $31,050. Not shown, a still life by O’Kelley, Wild Roses, 20" x 16" (sight), came up short at $1265, and a landscape, Plow Horse in Summer Field, 17" x 12" (sight), met expectations at $2300.


Two of the three Minnie Evans works sold in house while the other went to a phone bidder. The Lost Indian, a 9½" x 7" image, signed, dated, and titled, reached $11,155.


Originally published in the September 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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