Encyclopedia of American Folk Art

By Gerard C.Wertkin; Lee Kogan | Go to book overview
Save to active project




O'KELLEY, MATTIE LOU (1908-1997)

was a memory painter born into a farming family in rural Banks County, Georgia. She spent the first seven decades of her life there. When her father died in 1930, she stayed on to care for her mother long after her siblings left home to raise families of their own. After her mother died in 1955, she continued to support herself, as she had throughout her adult life, working as a housekeeper and in a school cafeteria.

In the 1960s, looking for a more agreeable means of earning an income, O'Kelley began to paint. Shortly thereafter, she began offering her paintings for sale at local art shows in Maysville (in Banks County). In 1975, seeking a wider audience for her art, she went to Atlanta and showed some of her paintings to Gudmund Vigtel, then director of The High Museum of Art. He arranged for her to sell her work through the museum gift shop, and introduced her to a dealer who began representing her work.

Robert Bishop saw her paintings on a visit to Atlanta in the late 1970s. When he became director of New York's American Folk Art Museum, he championed her work. Within a few years of her retirement in 1968 (from her last job, in a Maysville mop yarn plant), O'Kelley was earning a livable wage through sales of her paintings.

O'Kelley primarily painted scenes she recalled from her childhood, youth, and early adulthood on and around the farm where she grew up-images that place her work firmly in the memory painting genre. Painting at a time when small farms were noticeably struggling and declining in number, O'Kelley vividly expressed her nostalgic feelings for the rural, agrarian lifestyle she knew. Her landscapes are highly stylized, and make liberal use of pointillist brushstrokes, in which she uses small dots of paint that form shapes and tones of color when viewed from a distance. The trees in her paintings are so uniformly shaped that they appear to have been created by a topiary artist. O'Kelley's paintings are idyllic panoramas that convey a sense of the family farm as a self-sufficient utopia, a place suffused with peace and contentment.

In 1977, O'Kelley left Banks County and, over the next three years, lived in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida, before settling in Decatur, Georgia, where she spent the rest of her life.

See also American Folk Art Museum; Robert Bishop; High Museum of Art, The; Painting, American Folk; Painting, Memory.

O'Kelley, Mattie Lou. From the Hills of Georgia: An Autobiography in Paintings. New York, 1983.
--. Mattie Lou O'Kelley: Folk Artist. Boston, 1989.
Sellen, Betty Carol, and Cynthia Johanson. Twentieth Century American Folk, Self Taught, and Outsider Art. New York, 1993.



(also known as the Charlestown Carver or the Stonecutter of Boston) is believed to be responsible for a remarkable group of Boston-area gravestones bearing dates between 1653 and the late 1680s. The paired headstones and foot-stones of fine-grained local slate that this anonymous craftsman carved display distinctive uppercase lettering, the frequent use of Latin phrases, and a variety of death-related iconography. No two stones are exactly alike. Several of this artist's more ambitious carvings are based on an allegorical scene found in Francis Quarles' Emblem Book (London, 1638). Most famous perhaps is the elaborate Joseph Tapping stone (1678, King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston), which depicts the winged figure of Father Time with his hourglass and scythe hovering over the skeletal figure of Death, who holds a dart in his left hand while the


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Encyclopedia of American Folk Art


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 612

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?