Thursday, December 25, 2014

Black Highwaymen and the sons of Black Highwaymen

I go down to North Miami beach to the sun but also to follow the lead of my friend/writer Javier de Pison who I have been friends with since he had the Wild Seduction gallery and was married to Peli and I was with Felice. We try and know the old sites of Florida- Weeki Wachi, the underwater phitographer Bruce Mozert and this time the Black Highwaymen that began in the sixties along A1A in Ft. Pierce, Fla. I'm going to gert the facts wrong and will try and correct the txt at a later date.
It seems NOT COLLEGE EDUCATED Black men painted Florida landscapes and sold them up and down the state road.
My new writer friend photographer/writer Gary Monroe who teaches in Daytona and wrote the definitive book on the work of Bruce Mozert also wrote numberous books published through the University of Florida Press on the Highway Men painters.
We were due in Ocala the next day but stopped at Ft. Pierce and found the A.C. Backus museum.

Seems Backus, the talented and successful Florida landscape painter, went to the local high school in Ft. Pierce and asked to teach the most talented Black young artist they had.

Al Hair, born 1941, came and studied with Backus. Soon he was doing landscapes from his memory (not from photos) and linked up with Al Black who sold them to businessmen along A1A and out of his truck. Things were going well- hoping to make many canvas to make much money he learned to paint on jetson board (drywall board). He had an assembly line of canvases and produced 20 paintings a day. Other young Blacks came around and Hair and the 26 original Highway men would paint in his backyard, go out and catch fish and drink and eat while painting and sell them in South Florida.
Then sitting in Eddie's drive-in along Avenue D in Ft. Pierce, he was gunned down and the art movement went quite until the late nineties. There is a oblique down the street from where he was killed as a tribute to his talent as an artist.

I always encourage my kids to ask people questions. When we couldn't find the Backus museum, Javier asked Derrick, who turned out to be working for the city of Ft. Pierce and was the nephew of Al Hair's wife, where Backus gallery was and later he walked back up to us and offered to introduce his aunt over the phone. That lead to an home interview and more.

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