BabyArtist(s)Jimmy Lee SudduthObject Creation Date20th centuryMedium & Supportpigmented sweet mud on plywoodDimensions
24 9/16 x 12 1/4 in. (62.3 x 31 cm);24 5/8 x 12 5/16 in. (62.39 x 31.12 cm)Credit LineGift of The Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art CollectionLabel copy
Jimmy Lee Sudduth
United States, 1910–2007
late 20th century
Pigmented sweet mud on plywood
Gift of the Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art Collection, 2002/1.191
The son of a Native American medicine woman, Jimmy Lee Sudduth spent his childhood combing the woods for plants and herbs with his mother. At some point in their sojourns, the young Sudduth began to paint with mud on tree trunks. Decades later, Sudduth returned to his mud painting and discovered that mud would remain permanently on surfaces if combined with a form of sugar—what Sudduth came to call “sweet mud”—which Sudduth could mix in 36 different shades. By the 1980s, Sudduth also added latex and craft paints to his work, at the behest of collectors concerned with the long-term preservation of his works. Sudduth always painted with his fingers rather than a brush because, as he said, his fingers “don’t wear out.”
(Out of the Ordinary, 2010)
Jimmie Lee Sudduth perfected what has now been coined "sweet mud" painting. This mixture of mud and sugar water is the medium with which he paints. Other natural elements can be added to this mixture to create different pigments, for example grass and wild berries. The abundance of natural elements available gives Sudduth an unlimited supply of pigment choices. Among his peers Sudduth is thought of as the founding father of Alabama mud painting.
Sudduth grew up on a farm in Alabama, which is where most of his inspiration originates. Familiar people and places from the surrounding community were often used as subject matter. One such person could be Baby, most likely the image of someone he knew or with whom he came in contact. Sudduth grew up during hard times and being a black uneducated man in the South provided many challenges. Painting with a homemade mixture helped to fill his creative urges as well as his dream, which was as he stated "I'm gonna be fay-mous, fay-mous! I didn't learn much in school, just learned to write my name--Jim. But I believe I'd rather be famous, than rich or smart. I leave the drips so people know it's mine." Sudduth obtained his goal not only through his work but also with his unique "sweet mud" technique.
Modern and Contemporary Intern
2002Primary Object Classification Painting Primary Object TypeportraitAdditional Object Classification(s)PaintingCollection AreaModern and ContemporaryRights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image
for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.