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Volume 24, Number 4 — April 2017

Eric Cunningham in book about self-taught art

Eric Cunningham of Bristol, Tenn., is one of 32 artists featured in the recently published book.
Eric Cunningham of Bristol, Tenn., is one of 32 artists featured in the recently published book.
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April 20, 2015

Eric Cunningham of Bristol, Tenn., is one of 32 artists featured in the recently published book "When the Spirit Speaks: Self-Taught Art of the South" by Margaret Day Allen.

This book introduces the reader to self-taught artists in the Southeastern United States. Some have already come to the attention of collectors and scholars. Many others have been unrecognized outside of their immediate neighborhoods. What they all have in common is an unquenchable desire to make art.

The author, Allen, is a communications professional living in North Carolina. She worked as assistant news editor of the Bristol Herald Courier in the mid-1980s.

She said, "This book was a labor of love that took about six years to complete. My husband and I had been collecting this type of art and had gotten to know a number of the artists. Although this type of art, sometimes called folk art or outsider art, is gaining in popularity and recognition, many of the artists were not well known outside of their home communities. I hope this book will make more people aware of self-taught art and the extraordinary people who make it."

She added: "The first time I saw Eric Cunningham's art, I realized it was something that spoke to many people's feelings about life in the South. Eric, who jokingly refers to his work as "white trash art,' puts his own, unique spin on subjects including moonshining, country music, professional wrestling, and the religious practice of snake handling. Although he may treat the subject in a humorous way, he is always respectful of these Southern traditions, which he feels are threatened by modern mass culture."

Artist, Eric Cunningham says he is "flattered to be included in this cultural document."

"I feel very honored to be featured as an artist in the book 'When The Spirit Speaks Self Taught Art Of The South.' The book is filled with many talented self-taught artists who work in different mediums. I also hope that when people read the book that they may be exposed and/or express an interest in this alternative form of art," he said.

"Born and raised in Appalachia I have always been a fan of the southern inspired themes, the people, the heritage, the customs, and the weirdness that makes our area unique. I am a fan of folk art and consider the art of Howard Finster to be my greatest influence. I developed my own style of art that is a cross of Americana/folk and pop that I call Appalachian Disasterpieces," he added.

"When the Spirit Speaks: Self-Taught Art of the South," may be purchased online from amazon.com, bn.com (Barnes & Noble online), and from many independent bookstores.





Author, Margaret Day Allen, is a communications professional living in North Carolina. She worked as assistant news editor of the Bristol Herald Courier in the mid-1980s.