Simon Sparrow Outsider Art Picture, ca. 1980
Well, I know that this piece of artwork was created by a local Madison artist named Simon Sparrow. He was a street preacher in Madison. And that's actually what I remember him from as a child. He, uh, he used to stand in Library Mall in a big, blue robe and preach outside on the campus. He was a customer of my father-in-law's service station on Park Street in Madison. And one day, in the winter, his car had broken down and he had walked to the service station to ask my father-in-law to help him, and so he did. My father-in-law didn't charge him anything and he made this as a thank-you present for my father-in-law.
APPRASIER: Do you have any idea when he made this?
I think that it was probably made in the late '70s, maybe early '80s at the latest.
APPRASIER: So, what do you think your father-in-law thought when he gave it to him?
Well, I'm sure he appreciated the gesture. I know that it hung for a while in my in-laws' basement. And when my husband and I bought our first house, it was sent over to our home. Wasn't very thrilled about having it in the house. We eventually did hang it in my son's bedroom when he was a baby, and it was over his crib. But he was scared of it, so we took it down. (laughing)
APPRASIER: Well, one of the things that makes this kind of folk art so interesting is that it affects everybody in different ways. And most people in the business would refer to this as outsider art. It's made from found objects. And Simon Sparrow thought that he was a spiritual vessel that God talked through. And he thought that his art and his spiritual message were one and the same, that this type of creation was sort of the essence of the human spirituality. He was West African, and so a lot of the symbolism is African spirituality mixed up with Christianity and iconic images. I did some research online and there's quite a bit of his work out there. He worked in different mediums. He worked in pastels, he worked in pencil and charcoal. But most people, I think, really prefer these works. Mr. Sparrow died in 2000 and there's some of his work in the Minnesota Museum of Art. And he was represented by a major gallery down in Chicago. I would say a good auction estimate on this would be $6,000 to $8,000.
APPRASIER: And then I would just kind of stand back and let them fight over it.
Are you guys going to hang it in the house?
I don't know. (laughing) We might have to now.
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