DFT @ Home | Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts

(USA/2018—directed by Jeffrey Wolf) 

This illuminating documentary explores the life of a unique American artist, a man with a remarkable and unlikely biography. Bill Traylor was born into slavery in 1853 on a cotton plantation in rural Alabama. After the Civil War, Traylor farmed the land as a sharecropper until the late 1920s, then took odd jobs in segregated Montgomery. A decade later, alone and homeless in his 80s, Traylor began to draw and paint, capturing memories from plantation days and scenes of a radically changing urban culture.

Having witnessed profound social change during a life spanning slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Great Migration, Traylor devised his own visual language to translate an oral culture into something original, powerful, and culturally rooted. His more than one thousand strikingly modernist drawings and paintings, created between 1939 and 1942, eventually led Traylor to be regarded as one of America’s great self-taught artists, as well as the subject of a Smithsonian retrospective. Closed captions available. (76 minutes) 


“Critic’s Pick! A sincere, nourishing account of the artist. Wolf makes excellent use of photo and film archives, laying out the territory that fed Traylor’s vision.”  -Glenn Kenny, The New York Times 


"Bill Traylor’s art speaks to the universal language of humanity – a cry for justice, dignity and resilience." -Andrew J. Young Jr., 14th U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations 

“An extraordinary artist…Traylor’s pictures stamp themselves on your eye and mind… nothing impaired the humor and subtlety of his imagination. Traylor’s art generates a presence at once mighty and fugitive.” -Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker 



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