MARCH 9 – APRIL 6, 2013
For some people the air is filled with entities. For some, these are spirits, for some they are interstellar intelligences, and for others they are ideas. In the case of the artist J.B. Murray they are spirits who come from the heart of his Southern Black Belt culture. His drawings were made as amulets blessed by the power of the words of the Holy Spirit. He depicts spirits who are neither entirely positive nor entirely negative. They hover in morally neutral territory. They are saved and unsaved. Melvin Edward Nelson (M.E.N.) was himself on the edge of culture. He was a hobo and an astral traveler. His spirits were the possibility of lives on other planets, a personal search that took him even beyond the bounds of popular science fiction culture. The saucers used his compound as a place to land. While Murray's work is about the interstices between body and soul, M.E.N.'s work is about the interstices between Earth and other heavenly bodies. His eye saw planets being birthed and he designed great machines to save Mankind by knowing and exploring the deep mysteries of space.
Although working at the same time at different ends of this country, their work could not be more different from each other even though both focused on depicting alternate realities. J.B. Murray's work deals with a spiritual system developing from the Black Belt phenomenon of yard shows and a world of mythical morality. Melvin Edward Nelson's work moved into space, constructing plans for machines that allowed enlightened men to probe different spiritual realities, a combination of science and spirit, not unlike the basic concept of Emery Blagdon's Healing Machines. The idiosyncratic formal power of their work (with no references to the mainstream's art-for-arts-sake agenda) renders them both as major artists in the pantheon of American Art Brut.