Old Mountain Witch
This folk-inspired painting depicts a witch entering the window of a cabin in the middle of the night, while a woman sitting on a bed points at the intruder. This seemingly simple and strange painting is actually a deep exploration of a living and thriving folktale tradition.
Mike Ousley's paintings are direct comments on Appalachian life and traditions. The artist has painted since childhood; although trained in Western European traditions, the artist largely paints in the folk style of his youth. Ousley credits the visionary artists and rich heritage of the Appalachian region as his primary influence. Born the son of a coal miner in Southeastern Kentucky, the artist grew up listening to stories told by friends and family. Later, Ousley traveled to the Blue Ridge Mountains as an adult, absorbing more tales and experiences. The artist’s paintings are, at first glance, simple stories told in the folk tradition—tight vignettes of a memory, some odd anecdote or an old Appalachian tale. Upon further reflection, Ousley's work represents a broader struggle of the Appalachian peoples to secure their collective identity by embracing the rich heritage of their storytelling tradition.
About this piece, Ousley said: "In Appalachia, a witch would have been the worst thing you could encounter in the woods. They were said to be able to hex your crops or animals, maybe even take your children. We had ‘Granny Witches' back in the day who could use herbs to heal and some could 'draw fire,' which was believed to be a gift of healing someone with burns. The Granny Witches could draw the heat out and heal the burn."
Mike Ousley’s paintings are tight vignettes that explore memories, odd anecdotes and old tales from Appalachia, directly commenting on the region’s traditions. Drawing influence from visionary artists and childhood tales he heard while growing up in Southeastern Kentucky, the artist often sets aside his training in Western European traditions for a folk-influenced style he developed in his youth. The simplicity and strangeness of the artist’s work belie their depth; they represent a broader struggle of the Appalachian peoples to secure their collective identity via a rich heritage of storytelling.
This folk-inspired painting depicts a witch entering the window of a cabin in the middle of the night, while a woman sitting on a bed points at the intruder. This seemingly simple and strange painting is actually a deep exploration of a living and thriving folktale tradition.More
- This work is available until 4:00 PM, Dec 1, 2022.