"Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist."
"It's a mystery!"
Right outside Pittsview, Alabama, is a long, slow curve in the highway. The road is empty and lonesome, lined in tall planted pines. All is washed out by a white sun; a still scene, a polaroid not quite developed. Every few minutes, a semi flies around the curve at 65 miles per hour, blasting your whole body in a deafening gale-force gust of thick hot air and peppering sand bullets in your eyes. Then, quiet again.
Less than 5 yards from the asphalt is the front door to what was a junk shop, once owned by the self-proclaimed Mayor of Pittsview, Alabama, Frank Turner. Mr. Turner was a humble-seeming grey-haired man who at once resembled Mr. Rogers in movement and Jimmy Carter in sweater-vest. Twenty years ago Mr. Turner called Fred Fussell, the curator of the art museum in Columbus, Georgia (the closest big city to Pittsview). He told Mr. Fussell that a local 66 year old farmer named John Henry Toney had plowed up a turnip root with a human face on it. He told the curator of the museum that John Henry Toney plowed this turnip root up out of the garden belonging to another local man, 30 year old barbecue restaurant/auction house operator, Butch Anthony. John Henry had drawn a picture of this turnip root and showed it to Butch. Butch then stuck it in the window of Mr. Turner's junk shop. It sold the next day. For $50. So Butch then drew his own picture of the same turnip root and stuck it in the window of the junk shop. And, wouldn't you know it? It sold for $50, too.
And that was the beginning. Or so they say.
Just a year or two after finding the turnip root, Butch began hosting an annual art & music party, called Doo Nanny, a named inspired by what John Henry Toney once exclaimed in joy upon finding a deflated and lost weather balloon in his yard, "I got me a doo-nanny NOW!"
The first Doo-Nanny was on the side of the road outside Mr. Turner's junk shop. John Henry showed some drawings, a few local old time musicians played, Mr. Fussell the museum curator was there, Butch brought a snapping turtle in a 50 gallon plastic drum, someone brought a baby goat, and three visitors showed up. (It was only later, after the Doo-Nanny became a widely popular week-long southern arts happening, taking a year to plan, months to build, and occupying half of Butch's 80 acre family farm did John Henry tell Butch that "doo nanny" was a word with vague meanings, many of them explicitly sexual in nature. Butch took this new information and ran with it.)
Butch Anthony, painted like a skeleton and wearing an "Indian headdress", climbs up a pine tree and zip wires over the crowd into a lake while shooting a flaming arrow into a 60 ft fireworks laden wooden sculpture of a vagina for the annual midnight 'Lighting of the Doo Nanny'.
Since finding the turnip root, twenty years have passed. Butch lives a life he created in which his role is equal parts Huck Finn, a Lost Boy from Peter Pan, medicine man, and side-show announcer. Butch has created a "new art form" he calls Intertwangleism, a way of looking at the parts and pieces of a thing or someone and playing with how those parts mix together to form the whole. More specifically, it's how Butch himself dissects the world around us. Fred Fussell said to The New York Times in 2010, "In a whole number of ways that derive from his highly creative imagination [Butch] comes up with innovative thoughts and processes. He breaks down whatever he's rendering into these various parts that are part physical and part invented by him. His is a really nice way of looking at the physical world."
Despite having a near sell-out show at The Black Rat Project in London a month ago, being featured in The New York Times with his celebrated southern designer girlfriend, Natalie Chanin, having work displayed at The White House, being the subject of a documentary by renowned filmmaker Les Blank, and appearing on national television, Butch has stayed on his family farm. He continues to run the Possum Trot Auction every Friday night. And John Henry Toney now lives on Butch's land, in the cabin Butch built when he was 15 years old, 20 yards from Butch's back door.
Butch has always said that the real treasures are right where you are already, that there is no reason to leave home. Even if that place is only a dry and white hot, lonesome curve in the road. Turn your face to the stinging sand when the trucks blow past the pines and see what's beyond the trees. Look the turnip in the eye.
Join us between 6-8:30 pm on Friday night April 12, 2013 for the opening of Anatomy Can Be Fun! New work by Butch Anthony.