George Cleveland Andrews
(1911 - 1996)
George Cleveland Andrews was active/lived in Georgia. George Andrews is known for primitive fanciful paintings, portrait.
George Cleveland Andrews
Biography from Morris Museum of Art
The following biography has been provided by Karen Towers Klacsmann, Adjunct Assistant Curator for Research, Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia.
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George Andrews, Georgia's famed "Dot Man," found myriad ways to express himself visually throughout his life. Although his formal education ended with the third grade, his natural artistic ability was noticed and encouraged by one of his teachers—much to the consternation of his mother. As an adult, he amused his own children with his drawings and the toys that he fashioned from found materials. His painted rocks and vibrantly patterned paintings on the surfaces of all manner of everyday object led to the "Dot Man" appellation. In his final years, he achieved wide recognition as an artist, and his work was exhibited in numbers of museums and galleries.
George Cleveland Andrews was born on August 14, 1911, in Morgan County, Georgia. He spent his entire life in the vicinity of the county seat of Madison, a small city located sixty miles east of Atlanta. George was the second of three surviving children born to Jessie Rose Lee Wildcat Tennessee Andrews and James Orr. The complicated relationship of his parents and his complex racial heritage combined with poverty to produce formidable obstacles, and George was forced to maneuver in a segregated society for most of his life.
Nevertheless, his strong work ethic and boundless creativity were notable in his role as patriarch to a remarkably accomplished family. His mother, of African American and Cherokee ancestry, lived on the Oaks Plantation, commonly known as the Orr Place, which was owned by his father's family, of Scottish heritage. When George was a child, the Orr family was forced to sell much of their land, and James and Jessie moved into adjoining cabins on a portion of the remaining farmland. James, who never married, was Jessie's lifelong partner despite the fact that she was married to Eddie Andrews, one of the hired farmhands. James, in defiance of expectations of the segregated South, donated two acres of land in 1916 to build the Plainview Baptist Church, which became the religious and social center for Jessie and her family. Both she and George are buried in the church cemetery.
George's formal education ended when, at the age of ten, he started working in the fields. But he inherited from his father a love of reading, and, although he never set foot out of the state of Georgia, he subscribed to newspapers and magazines in order to expand his knowledge. When he was seventeen he married sixteen-year-old Viola Perryman. He farmed and worked as a laborer for several years as part of the WPA projects, and in 1935 the family, which now included four children, moved to a two-room wood-frame house that James Orr had built for them on family property. He spent the next eight years farming and living in a stable and secure environment surrounded by his extended family.
George, Viola, and their children were unusual for the importance they placed on reading and creative activities, despite their poverty and long hours spent working in the fields. In 1943 the family moved and began a grueling life as sharecroppers. Although each member of the family who was old enough was expected to work in the fields, Viola insisted that her children attend school whenever possible. George worked almost without cessation, but on arriving at home he always entertained his children with drawings (sometimes executed with a stick in the dirt when nothing else was available), and he fashioned toys for them out of discarded objects. Mysteriously, drawings of airplanes would appear on abandoned farm buildings. These anonymous works, executed with laundry bluing, were later attributed to George, who produced them during his nighttime wanderings.
In 1953 the family entered a new phase. The older children had begun to leave for Atlanta and better opportunities, and Viola, pregnant with her tenth child, moved to Atlanta with the children. George stayed in Madison, Georgia, and found a job with the city as a sign painter. Painting street signs in an unventilated basement caused George to contract lead poisoning. After a protracted illness, the city offered the disabled worker government housing, which became his home for the remainder of his life. Alone and with time to read and put his creative talents to use, George decorated his personal environment, inside and outside, with brightly colored, vividly patterned fanciful paintings using found or donated materials. He also painted rocks that he placed around Madison, and because of his preference for covering them with dots, he became known as the "Dot Man." George was more interested in the act of producing art than the rewards of its sale, and he often gave away or discarded his creations.
Self-confidence came with increased recognition and attention, which influenced George's work. "G," as he was known to his family and friends, began signing his work "GA," the same as the initials of his home state. He also began painting more complex work with inserted text. George was not especially religious, although his mother and wife were pillars of the Plainview Baptist Church; the subject matter of his art contained his personal visions, his exploration of racial issues, and themes related to farming life in rural Georgia. He began dating his work, and at the request of his son Benny also began saving it.
By the 1980s Benny, a professional artist, began to supply George with canvas and art materials. The two began a collaborative series of family portraits. George, the self-proclaimed "natural" artist, and his son, whom he referred to as the "schooled" artist, produced a series of portraits that included Jessie Andrews, James Orr, George, Viola, six of their children and Benny's wife Nene. Another painting of the Andrews family tree, which is in the collection of the Morris Museum of Art, was also part of this series. When his son Raymond died, the collaborative effort to finish the rest of the portraits was abandoned. He continued to paint until the final year of his life, and his work was exhibited in Georgia, Tennessee, and New York. During his lifetime, a solo exhibition of his work was mounted at the Morris Museum of Art in 1994. Other exhibitions have followed since his death on January 11, 1996.
He is represented in the permanent collection of the Morris Museum of Art by nineteen works of art in a variety of media, including This Is the Andrews Family, his depiction of the Andrews family tree. His work is also included in the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Tubman African American Museum.
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