Pappy Kitchens: The Saga of Red Eye the Rooster
July 15 - September 17
A native of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, O. W. “Pappy” Kitchens (1901–1986) didn’t begin painting until his retirement at age sixty-seven. A self-taught artist, his vivid imagination and love for a good story well told led him to take up art. The narrative quality of his work emanates from the traditions of parables and storytelling with which he grew up. Pappy declared himself to be a folk artist, claiming, “I paint about folks, what folks see and what folks do.”
The Saga of Red Eye the Rooster, his magnum opus, was by far his most ambitious work. The paintings that make up the series, created between 1973 and 1976, constitute a homespun version of The Pilgrim’s Progress that takes a form recognizable to any Southerner, a beast fable. The sixty panels in the series, each fifteen inches square, are composed of mixed media on paper and executed in three groups of twenty. The tale follows Red Eye the Rooster from foundling to funeral, exploring every facet of the life of this extraordinary bird. Red Eye’s adventurous quest leads him to overcome a string of antagonists, but, unlike the classic protagonist of yore, he does not benefit in the end from the knowledge and experience gained in the struggle. Instead, he succumbs to his own fatal flaw and bad judgment.
Pappy Kitchens: The Saga of Red Eye the Rooster is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated volume published by the University Press of Mississippi. It is available through the Morris Museum of Art store.