Friday, October 14, 2011

ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert

Chain Gang (All Me), 2004

What appears, at first, to be a jumble of white dashes on black, turns out to be prisoners on a chain gang. Blizzards of white dots are vast expanses of cotton, waiting to be picked for pennies a pound. This is the visual language of 67-year old African American artist, Winfred Rembert. His paintings--actually, hides of leather, carved, tooled and dyed--create a graphic diary illustrating life in the segregated rural south.

“ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert,” a feature length documentary directed and produced by Vivian Ducat, premiers this week at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Chain Gang - The Ditch, 2005

As Rembert’s experiences unfold on screen, we learn that the paintings are completely autobiographical. That includes the chain gang, on which he worked, while serving a prison sentence. He started in the cotton fields as a young child, when he picked alongside “Mama,” the great aunt who raised him.

Rembert’s visual story telling is especially astute when he depicts scenes of everyday activities in the environs of his native Cuthbert, Georgia. Pictures of pool halls and juke joints usually include portraits of specific characters.

On Mama's Cotton Sack, 2002

The artist’s remembrances are riveting in their detail as he recalls the racism he suffered (including a near lynching) the poverty in which he was raised, and his civil rights activism.

Fascinating too, is Rembert's personal journey as an artist. As a kid he made his own toys from whatever materials he could find. Though he picked up leather tooling in prison during the 1970s, it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that Rembert started to translate his memories into images. With shows at Yale University Art Gallery, and Adleson Gallery in New York, his work has gained momentum with collectors.

“ALL ME” will also be shown at festivals in Chicago, Hot Springs and Albany, Georgia. Visit the film’s website for more info and all the details.

Chain Gang Picking Cotton, 2004

Family Picking Cotton, 2003

Saturday Shopping Day, 2000

The Wood Boy, 2007

Jeff's Pool Room, 2003

Smilin' Ben Shorter, 2009

Sugar Cane (Patsy's Mother), 2008

The Baptism, 2003

I got to meet the artist after a
screening of the film during the summer.
Photo: Joan Morgan


  1. Nice writeup on this wonderfully entertaining and informative documentary. I just saw this film at the Chicago International Film Festival.

    Very nice of you to post several examples of Winfred's work. He is quite an artist!

    How nice that you had the opportunity to meet him recently. I won't have that chance, I'm afraid, but I am interviewing the director Vivian Ducat tomorrow in Chicago. I'll report on that soon.

  2. Thanks, Tom. Yes, please send a link when your interview is posted.-L


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