Artist exhibits art inspired by Alabama childhoodBy Katie Bedrich | 03/09/2015 10:55pm
Burton's painting, 'I Am Evermore' hangs at the front of the artist's painting exhibit in Sarah Moody Gallery of Art. Photo Courtesy of Bill Dooley:
Burton has shown his art in New York and other cities in the United States and Europe. Before opening the current exhibition in the University’s Sarah Moody Gallery of Art last month, his most recent visit to Alabama was for the installation of a painting in Birmingham in 2002.
“I’m hoping that this show will open up more possibilities for me to return to Alabama,” he said. “It’s really been a great experience, so full of warm memories and reconnecting with people who I hadn’t seen in 30 years or more.”
The opening of “From the Alabama Oval” was special to Burton, because it was the first time he included biographical details and showed photographs of his childhood in Alabama to celebrate the exhibition, he said.
“I was able to make it more about my life story, as opposed to when I usually lecture, I just keep it more to my work,” he said.
Burton’s internationally-renowned career began when his grandmother, Manilla Fulton, taught him to paint at an early age. His memories of growing up in Talladega include showing at local art fairs, and, of course, the opening of the world’s largest oval racecar track.
Director of the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art Bill Dooley likened Burton’s paintings to the Alabama Oval, better known as the Talladega Superspeedway.
“[Burton] and I were excited about the idea of using this geometric reference since it is indeed one employed in his compositions,” Dooley said. “He associated the element of time and movement found in both activities of the painter and the racecar driver. I think that some of it expands into a sort of Zen concept of being truly dedicated to their respective practices.”
Burton said he found Dooley’s interpretation refreshing and different.
“It allowed me to go back on my own experience of how exciting it was when the racetrack opened in Talladega,” Burton said.
Both of Burton’s parents graduated from The University of Alabama. He said his mother went back to school several times to earn master’s and doctorate degrees at the University, and he would spend time in Tuscaloosa during the summers while she studied. Burton said he remembers visiting Sarah Moody, the gallery where his paintings currently hang, and seeing the work of renowned Southern artists like William Christenberry and William Eggleston.
“When I went there as a kid, who would have known I would be one day showing my art there?” he said. “You just never know what life is going to present to you.”
One of Burton’s paintings is featured in the March issue of Architectural Digest, hanging in the bedroom of Tommy Mottola, head of Sony Music. The painting is from a series Burton created 15 years ago called the “I Am Paintings.” The large entrance piece in Sarah Moody, “I Am Evermore,” is from the same series and is the earliest piece in the gallery.
“It’s really a wonderful coincidence that at the same time we have this show at the University, there’s another painting from this series reproduced in a very respected publication,” Burton said.
The Sarah Moody Gallery of Art offers the University community access to well-known artists through lectures, artist talks and the exhibits programmed throughout the year. Dooley said students always seem to get a lot from seeing exhibits by artists from across the country.
“It was great to have a chance to work with Richmond,” he said. “I was excited about getting a chance to support another nationally-acclaimed painter with strong ties to the state of Alabama.”
Burton’s exhibit opened Feb. 19 and will be on display until March 27.