Forged Clementine Hunter artwork

FBI investigates La. couple accused of selling forged works of folk artist Clementine Hunter

By: MICHAEL KUNZELMAN

Associated Press

10/30/09 2:50 AM PDT

BATON ROUGE, LA. — The old man’s sales pitch sounded plausible enough to art collector Don Fuson. The warning signs didn’t appear until after Fuson paid him $30,000 for what he thought were paintings by renowned folk artist Clementine Hunter.

By the time the FBI got involved, Fuson didn’t need the agents to tell him what he already suspected: The paintings appeared to be forgeries.

The FBI is investigating allegations that William Toye, 78, and his wife Beryl Ann, 68, have been selling forged paintings to unsuspecting art collectors and dealers since the 1970s. William Toye was arrested in the ’70s on a charge of forging Hunter’s work, but was never prosecuted.

“We can all be fooled, and this man fooled me,” Fuson said. “I gave him the benefit of the doubt at every turn, and that’s not normally me.”

Some of the collectors and dealers who purchased paintings from the Toyes say the biggest victim would be Hunter, who died in 1988 at age 101.

The black folk artist taught herself to paint while living in Louisiana’s rural Natchitoches Parish. Her paintings — believed to number in the thousands — depict cotton picking, baptisms, funerals and other scenes of plantation life. Since her death, paintings that once fetched several hundred dollars now routinely sell for thousands.

No new charges have been filed against the Toyes since the FBI opened its investigation, but court records show that agents searched their Baton Rouge home on Sept. 30 and seized artwork and other items.

In court papers, an FBI agent said he interviewed Fuson and three other people who paid the Toyes nearly $100,000 for more than 40 paintings that appear to be Hunter forgeries. The FBI says the couple knew they were fakes.

The FBI’s probe has expanded beyond Louisiana. In January, an FBI agent took photographs of Hunter paintings at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota. The paintings were a gift from a donor who had lived in the area. Lyndel King, the Weisman’s director, said FBI Special Agent Randolph Deaton IV informed the museum in March that five of its 38 Hunter paintings may be forgeries.

During an interview at their home this week, the Toyes denied creating or selling any forgeries.

“Once they leave our hands, we have no control over what happens to them,” Beryl Ann Toye said. “We had the real ones, and everyone else was faking them.”

The Toyes said FBI agents seized records that can prove their innocence.

“I didn’t confess anything because I didn’t do anything,” William Toye said.

The couple also is suspected of using an intermediary, Robert Edwin Lucky Jr., to sell forged paintings, Deaton wrote in court documents. Lucky told the FBI he met the Toyes about 10 years ago and has sold up to 100 paintings he obtained from them.

The FBI said Lucky learned from experts in Hunter’s works that the Toyes’ paintings were forgeries but continued to sell them, an allegation Lucky denies.

“I never sold a painting that I thought was a forgery,” he said.

Fuson wasn’t an avid Hunter collector when William Toye visited his Baton Rouge store in November 2005. But he agreed to buy a few paintings after hearing Toye’s story: His wife started buying paintings from Hunter in the 1960s. Their collection survived Hurricane Katrina, but the couple wanted to sell them after moving from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.

“The story read right to me. Nothing seemed wrong,” he recalled.

Fuson found it strange that Toye kept changing his telephone number, but that didn’t stop him from buying more paintings. It wasn’t until February 2006 that Fuson heard from other buyers that Toye was suspected of selling forgeries.

Fuson confronted the Toyes and asked for documentation that the paintings were authentic. He said Beryl Ann Toye then accused Fuson of forging the paintings.

The FBI took photos of paintings Fuson bought and showed them to an expert on Hunter’s work, who said they appeared to be forgeries.

Shannon Foley, a New Orleans art dealer, bought 19 paintings from the Toyes for $44,500. The expert consulted by the FBI said her paintings also appeared to be fake.

Foley, who has sued the Toyes, was reluctant to publicly discuss her story.

“Dealers don’t want to have their name associated with forgeries, but there were a lot of other reputable dealers who bought these paintings, too,” she said.

Beryl Ann Toye said FBI agents accused her of painting the forgeries, a claim she denies.

“They have no proof,” she said.

October 30, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

TV Worth Watching

Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations is a half-hour series that finds outsider art in all corners of the country, has fun making the discovery, and tries to include the creators of that art. It’s a road trip with a trio of the coolest tour guides ever on public TV — a kind of a Monty Python meets Rick Steves mix that tells you a lot about what you’re seeing and makes you laugh at the same time.

Continue Reading October 15, 2009 at 9:24 am 2 comments

Margaret Dennis, namesake of folk-art Miss. landmark Margaret’s Grocery, dies at 94

On the front porch of Margaret's Grocery

Margaret Dennis

Margaret Rogers Dennis  |  1916-2009

Vicksburg, MS

Embellished visionary environment  |  Created 1994 to present

4:02 PM CDT, October 7, 2009

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — Margaret Dennis, the namesake and longtime proprietor of a grocery store that became a folk-art landmark in the Mississippi Delta, has died. She was 94.

Dennis died Monday at Vicksburg Convalescent Home. Services are 2 p.m. Saturday at Cool Springs M.B. Church in Vicksburg with burial in Cedar Hills Cemetery. W.H. Jefferson Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

Dennis is survived by her husband, the Rev. Herman Dennis, who turned the couple’s modest grocery store into a maze of red and white bricks, Christmas lights, Mardi Gras beads and signs with theological slogans.

Margaret and her late husband ran a rural grocery outside Vicksburg on old Highway 61, until he was fatally shot by a neighborhood kid during a robbery. Margaret met Rev. Dennis through the ladies at church. They married in 1979 and began to fix up the place to attract attention, so Rev. Dennis could share the word of God. Rev. Dennis began to paint the building red, white, and some blue, but Margaret added the crowning touches of pink and yellow. Brick towers and signs abound, welcoming “Jews and Gentiles” with various symbols of the double-headed eagle of the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, of which he is a member. The interior of the store is elaborately decorated with beads and bold paint, and as well is the church bus, which also has pews and a pulpit for preaching.

Rev. Dennis and Margaret

Rev. Dennis and Margaret

Vicksburg, MS

Margaret's Grocery in Vicksburg, MS

October 8, 2009 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment

Mel Gould’s Buryville in Cheyenne, WY


Ah….back on the road again. This time to visit a friend in Jackson Hole, WY. About 10 miles east of Cheyenne on I-80, I saw what looked like homemade sculptures off to my right, and realized that it just might be Buryville, the sculpture environment of Mel Gould. Mel has been called an artist, scientist, engineer and genius, although he considers himself a tinkerer and pack rat.
Although he never had a formal education as an engineer, he spent 20 years working for a Denver-based manufacturing company. One of the his inventions were the earth anchors that run deep in the ground to secure telephone poles. This invention led him to working with Bulgarian artist Christo on his environmental art projects including “Running Fence” in Colorado and the 1,500 umbrella project in Japan and California.
Now retired, Mel spends countless hours tinkering around his yard with his wind-powered sculptures that are both a pleasure to watch and generate power for his modest home. But don’t let looks deceive you. 12 feet below his home lies “Buryville,” an artist studio/engineering lab/music room all created out of a school bus, a camper, an old grain silo on it’s side and a 55,000 gallon concrete gasoline tank.
His wife, Opal, showed us her favorite invention – a homemade evelator made from an old school locker – which takes her from the kitchen down to the basement to do laundry.


Down in Buryville…

Mel shares one of the many articles written about his inventions, such as the “Purple People Eater” a 6-wheeled vehicle.

Mr. Cranky powers a large carousel made from pipes and light shades


The “Wind Thing” that generates enough power to light Buryville.

September 30, 2009 at 5:10 pm 1 comment

Alfred Moore, Akron artist, 1950 – 2009

Akron artist Alfred McMoore dies; cried for people he never met

By Jim Carney
Beacon Journal staff writer

This April 23, 2000 photo of Alfred McMoore shows the artist, who typically wore suits, with some of his work in the background.

There was no way to resist Alfred McMoore.

The man who started out as the subject of an article for Beacon Magazine nearly a decade ago became much more than an eclectic artist who attended countless strangers’ funerals.

There was something so deep and essential to this ”outsider” artist, who spent many years hospitalized and who drew incredibly complicated pictures, that Mr. McMoore became my friend and entered my heart.

I am not alone in mourning Mr. McMoore, who died Friday at age 59.

A wake tentatively is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, followed by a funeral service, at Stewart & Calhoun Funeral Home on West Thornton Street, where Mr. McMoore attended thousands of funerals — nearly every one for a person he had never met.

I met Mr. McMoore through neighbor Chuck Auerbach, an art collector who helped him sell his pictures. After I wrote about him in April 2000, Mr. McMoore became a fixture in my life.

Occasionally I gave him pipe tobacco, crayons or the 5-foot-wide scroll paper on which he produced rambling, movie-like pencil and crayon drawings — some 50 yards long — of the characters in his world.

He drew male sheriff’s deputies wearing fancy earrings and high heels. He drew female nurses with large linebacker arms.

Mr. McMoore loved drawing elaborate lamps, people in caskets with huge flower arrangements, Jesus playing electric guitar and long funeral trains.

His work is owned by a museum in France and has been on display at a New York City gallery. He is listed in the Art in Context database athttp://www.artincontext.org.

As a self-trained artist, his works fall into the ”outsider” category — a term used to describe nontraditional art created outside the scope of official training, often by someone who has been institutionalized.

Mr. McMoore traveled around town on the bus or on his bike and loved to call people on the telephone. Often, there would be 20, 40 or more messages from him on our home phone.

”This is Alfred McMoore,” he would say into the machine. ”Your black key is taking too long.”

The term ”black key” was something he used often.

When my son, Patrick, and Chuck Auerbach’s son, Dan Auerbach, formed a band in 2001, they thought of Mr. McMoore and came up with the name the Black Keys.

When the two later formed a publishing company for their music, they called it McMoore McLesst Publishing, a tribute to a term he often used to describe himself.

Drawing posture

Mr. McMoore drew his scrolls while lying on the floor, curled in a fetal-like position, with part of his body on the paper.

He bought paper from Ruppel’s Art & Paint Supply for at least the past 20 years, store owner Harold ”Harry” Ruppel said. He got it at a discount.

”He was part of the family,” Ruppel said.

Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of the Akron Art Museum, called his work amazing and astonishing.

”It is wonderful work about his highly personal version of people and things and business and life in Akron,” she said.

The museum owns a McMoore scroll and a drawing of a sheriff’s deputy.

Mr. McMoore’s niece, Ora Walker, said he began drawing as a child — chalk pictures on the streets in East Akron.

Drivers got to know Alfred and learned to give him room to draw, she said.

Barbara Robinson, his caseworker at Community Support Services, an Akron mental health agency, remembers walking to elementary school and seeing him drawing beautiful castles on the sidewalks and streets.

Even though he spent more than 13 years in state hospitals, for the past 20 years Mr. McMoore had not been hospitalized and had been living independently while under Community Support Services’ treatment.

Isatou Sagnia, director of regional services for CSS, said a photograph of Mr. McMoore and one of his drawings are on display at CSS offices.

”It is not going be the same without him around,” said Sagnia, who had worked with Mr. McMoore since he was 19.

She does not understand his fixation on funerals, but said the highest tribute he could pay to people was to place them in one of his drawings.

”If he likes you, he will draw you and put you in a coffin,” she said.

Dressed for success

Whenever I showed up at his apartment building to visit, he was waiting outside, usually wearing two, three or four coats and often with a cross around his neck.

He always wore a suit and tie and owned scores of suits that he bought at area thrift stores.

”Ain’t it a blessing?” he often said whenever he was happy. And every encounter started and ended with a hug.

Preston Stewart, the funeral director at Stewart & Calhoun, said Alfred was like a ”professional mourner,” in that he always cried at calling hours for strangers.

Alfred often called Stewart to ask about an upcoming funeral.

”Is it going to be a big one?” he would ask, Stewart said.

Because of Mr. McMoore’s large circle of friends — from social workers and police officers to bus drivers and people he met on the streets of Akron — his funeral could be ”a big one” too, Stewart said.

The funeral home is giving Mr. McMoore a discounted price of about $2,500 for services.

McMoore had no insurance and had no money to pay for the funeral, his niece said.

Donations for the service can be made to Stewart & Calhoun Funeral Home, 529 W. Thornton St., Akron, OH 44307.

The Black Keys plan to sponsor a showing of his work in Akron this fall. Details will be announced.


Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 orjcarney@thebeaconjournal.com.

September 30, 2009 at 5:07 pm Leave a comment

A Big Brass Van!

(thanks Bill, for sharing this)

9/18/2009 11:46:00 AM
Brass Van, art car make local stop
By Ray Gudas

For The Herald-Argus
Brass Van in the Parade by Delta Niner.
Brass Van by Crimthann Fid-Nemed.
NEW BUFFALO – Go ahead and stare.

Hunter Mann, the guy behind the wheel of the “Brass Van,” as he calls it, knows you can’t help it. Heck, even he can’t help it, and he sees it every day.

Suffice it to say there isn’t another one like it. Anywhere.

“It’s what’s known as an ‘art car,’ which is an automobile – in this case, a van – that has been transformed into a work of art,” Mann explained during a recent pit stop in New Buffalo. The Arizona resident was in the middle of a cross-country trip to Washington, D.C., where he was taking the van, along with a second, music-themed art car, to display them at the city’s annual H Street Festival.

The trip itself also provided an opportunity to promote “Automorphosis,” a recently released 77-minute documentary that, as its cover copy phrases it, “looks into the minds and hearts of a delightful collection of eccentrics, visionaries and just plain folks who have transformed their autos into artworks.”

Folks like Mann’s late godfather, Ernie Steingold, who is featured in the film. It was he who created the Brass Van, which he preferred to call the “California Fantasy Van.” A vacuum-cleaner repairman by trade, the former Burbank, Calif., resident started riveting things to his 1975 GMC van during the 1980s and continued to do so until his death more than 20 years later.

As Steingold explains in the documentary, it all started with three brass elephants that he attached to his hood one day as an ornament. Then he got the idea to cover the van with coins, which he did – around $15,000 dollars’ worth by the time he finished. That’s when he started adding more brass objects.

“There are more than 5,000 pieces of brass on the van right now,” Mann said.

Many of us would go crazy if we were asked the same dozen questions 50 times a day, every day, but Mann seems to take it in stride, patiently answering every one.

“Yes, it’s brass alright … The weight? 10,000 pounds … Mileage? Terrible – you don’t want to know … “

Mann said that one of the most memorable experiences he’s ever had while traveling with the van happened during his current trip.

“I stopped to visit a school for blind kids in Omaha,” he recalled. “They went crazy just running their hands over it.”

No only were many of the students able to “read” the letters that were stamped or otherwise emblazoned on many of the brass objects on the van, Mann said; some were also able to make observations that were far more impressive – for example, that an eagle figure was actually a bald eagle, and not a golden eagle, because of distinguishing features on the bird’s head.

“I was very impressed with them,” Mann said.

About the van
The van’s weight is so heavy that the tires have to be replaced every 4,000 miles.

When he’s on the road with the van, Mann gets pulled over by police approximately once every five days – usually to just ask him about it, or to take a photo.

Although it took 22 years to get the van to its current state, approximately 80 percent of the brass items were purchased from the same store; the rest came from flea markets and garage sales.

More often than not, the van is shipped (by truck, train and ship), rather than driven, over long distances. It’s been through the Panama Canal six times.

The van has been appraised at $350,000.

When it’s not on tour, you can find the Brass Van in Douglas, Ariz., at Art Car World, a museum dedicated to art cars (seeartcarworld.com).

Although the shell of the van is that of a 1975 GMC van, the weight of the van required that the original engine and transmission be replaced with modified (larger) versions.

The Brass Van has been featured in People magazine, on the Discovery Channel and in the opening scene of the Steve Martin movie, “L.A. Story.”

September 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

Adolph Hannemann show in Lucas, KS

Rosslyn Schultz keeps finding more and more great self taught-artists in Kansas…

“Face to Face, Meet the People”
Adolph Hannemann
September 5, 2009 – May 20, 2010

Exquisite wood, stone and bone carvings of self-taught artist, Adolph Hannemann formerly of Lincoln, KS, now residing at Salina will be exhibited at the Grassroots Art Center, 213 S. Main Street, Lucas, KS, beginning Labor Day weekend.

The opening for the exhibit will be Saturday, September 5th in conjunction with the Adam’s Apple Festival, 10 AM – 5 PM at the art center. Hannemann, an intuitive carver was actively creating from 1980 through the late 1990’s. Nearly one hundred sculptures, primarily from native Kansas woods will be on exhibit. Mr. Hannemann carved nearly a thousand portraits of people expressing a wide gamut of emotions, in addition a smaller number of animals.

Hours open: Sept 10 AM -5 PM Monday-Saturday. Sunday 1-5 PM
October – April Mon., Thurs-Sat. 10 AM -4 PM. Sunday 1-4 PM
May, 2010 — 10 AM -5 PM Monday-Saturday. Sunday 1-5 PM

Admission is charged. More photographs of the exhibit can be seen at www.grassrootsart.net, upcoming events. “This program is presented in part by the Kansas Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.”

Contact information:

Grassroots Art Center
213 S. Main St.
Lucas, KS 67648
Rosslyn Schultz
785-525-6118

August 20, 2009 at 9:25 am 1 comment

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