North Of Victory: Savannah’s Soulful Signage

 
 

Sulfur Art Services is pleased to present NORTH OF VICTORY: Savannah’s Soulful Signage, on display at the Sentient Bean. 13 E. Park Avenue Savannah, On Display: January 9th – February 26th 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1st from 6 – 9PM

This photography exhibition displays a sampling of Savannah’s rich cache of hand-painted signs from storefronts and facades of predominately African-American churches, barbershops and beauty salons, restaurants and seafood emporiums, and auto repair and car wash businesses.

Once abundant, as gentrification spreads from downtown into midtown, Thomas Square, and the Starland districts, more of these signs disappear every day. In many cases, photographs are the only remaining documentation of this valuable part of our city’s culture. The photographs in this exhibition were taken during the late 1990’s to early 2000’s by local photographer and author Susan Earl. The exhibit was produced by Emily Earl of Prismatic Prints. The photos are available for purchase.

At one time, four sign-painters’ work predominated in the area roughly bordered by Victory Drive and Gwinnett Streets, MLK Boulevard, and Waters Avenue. Now, Jimmie Williams, a Vietnam veteran and longtime sign-painter, wellknown for his air brushed portraits of fedora-clad men and elegant women, delicate seafood, and appetizing plates of soul food, as well as free-hand lettering, is the only one of these painters still working. Leonard Miller (also known as the Sandman for his Tybee sand sculptures), Marcus Polite, and William Pleasant (primarily a fine artist), have all passed away. Luckily, these four artists’ work is represented in this photo collection.

Called into action by the whitewashing of a beloved sign on the exterior of The Music Lounge in the early 1990’s, Tom Kohler encouraged photographers Susan Earl and Michelle Stewart to join him in documenting the threatened signs. Earl is also the author of Harrington’s Way, a novel about Savannah whose cover illustrations come from signs painted by Jimmie Williams.

The full collection of almost 800 photos of Savannah signs, taken over two decades, can be viewed online via Georgia Southern University’s Waddie Welcome Archive, thanks to the collaboration of Dr. Robert Bachelor, a Georgia Southern Professor of History. https:// digitalcommons. georgiasouthern.edu/savannah signs/

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