Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist
Audio Guide Playlist

This audio guide highlights selected works in Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist. Curators Richard J. Powell, Carter Foster, and others provide additional commentary.

NARRATOR: Richard Powell discusses this painting, Lawd Mah Man’s Leavin.’

RICHARD POWELL: It definitely generates a lot of comments. I think it generates comments because it is so strong. What I mean by strong is that it's a painting that ramps up a lot. Let's just take color, for example—turquoise skies, purple shacks, pea-green grass, and bodies that seem to be pink, and purple, and red.

This is a painting where the color wheel has definitely been turned up. Then, of course, we have these bodies, these people, or rather, let's say, these entities, because they seem to be on the other side of reality.

What I would argue is that first of all, this is not reality. This is straight out of the imagination. This is straight out of the bits and pieces of something that we might call a blues narrative. These were the songs that we heard all throughout that time period. Of course, when you heard Bessie Smith sing St. Louis Blues, the lyrics were about sadness, but she was singing it in such a hilarious, offhanded, almost sly way, that you knew that the words did not connect necessarily with the feeling.

I want to really stress that with Lawd, Mah Man's Leavin', that this is a work that on the surface seems to be stereotypic. But I would say that Motley is strategically using those broad characterizations to make a larger statement. To make a statement, perhaps, about these up-north folks who haven't quite really fit into the slick ways of urban life.

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