Legacy: An Artistic Response to Appalachia’s Cultural Heritage is one of three inter-related exhibits that make up the Art Center’s winter show: Appalachia from the Inside. For this exhibit, three Appalachian artists were commissioned to create original artwork in response to pieces from the permanent collection of the Kentucky Folk Art Center.

Scroll to the bottom of the page to read artist bios!

“Ain’t Long Enough”
by Stef Ratliff
Block print on canvas – 2021
48″ x 30″ | $3,500

Responding to “Rooster”
by Minnie Adkins
Sculpture, paint and wood – 1989

Artist Statement:

It’s funny how some things our parents said never really made sense when we were kids. As an adult, I’ve found a lot of wisdom in my mother’s advice when she told me, “Sissy, watch for snakes and I don’t mean the ones in the grass neither.” That woman has gotten me out of more bad deals, bad boyfriends, and bad choices with that one bit of advice alone than she will ever know.

Another thing she would always tell me is “you ain’t got enough neck for that.” Now this one took a while to get and honestly may have been targeted solely at me and my temper. My mom has the uncanny ability to stretch herself as thin as a Stretch Armstrong when she wants something done. She is amazing at whatever she puts her mind to. She can shoot, she can paint, she can pop your bones back into place, and I believe she would have made a hell of a farmer if she ever wanted to.

We never farmed though or had chickens growing up, but I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of farmers for friends. Over the years many jokes have been made about running around like a chicken with your head cut off, especially when I’m running through the garden with a big net trying to catch chickens. But, I’ll never forget when someone said “you’ll lose your head that way,” while I was chasing a chicken under a line of fence. It finally dawned on me that what she meant when she said “You ain’t got enough neck for that,” is that I was sure to lose my head if I tried to stretch myself that thin and I’d lose my head and my temper like a chicken.

“No Doula?” by Frank X Walker
Wooden assemblage,
pine and wood stains – 2021

Responding to “Hospital Birthing” by Earnest Patton
Sculpture – paint and wood, 1989

Artist Statement:

The large numbers of early Covid deaths helped bring more national attention to racial disparities and inequities in the healthcare system. According to the CDC, Black mothers are three to four times more likely than White mothers to die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth.

I was born in Ephraim McDowell Hospital in 1961. The hospital’s namesake is considered the “father of abdominal surgery,” and is glorified in the medical field, but almost nobody mentions the enslaved women McDowell experimented on as he developed his surgical treatment for ovarian cancer. Portraits of both he and Crawford hang in the McDowell House Museum on Second Street, which is ironically situated directly across from what used to be the center of activity for African American commerce and social life for Danville and its surrounding counties.

But where are the memorials to the Black women McDowell, and other white doctors like the more controversial J. Marion Sims, used to practice their craft on while perfecting their procedures and instruments? As slaves these women never had to give their consent. All McDowell needed was the consent of one of his fellow slave owners, as their bodies were not their own.

This piece is dedicated to all Black women who were abused without their consent for gynecological and other medical research.

“Finding Comfort in Unity”
by Lacy Hale
Mixed media collage on canvas
2021 | 24″ x 36″ | $750

Responding to “Rocker” by
Chester Cornett
Wood – 1970s

Artist Statement:

This piece was created in response to one of Chester Cornett’s rocking chairs and was entirely an experiment. 

The rocking chair spoke to me instantly. In my mind I immediately saw a piece showing the utility of a rocking chair– people standing, sitting, rocking, leaning on the chair. As I began to sketch and wonder how I could visually represent a rocking chair’s life, the piece went from being very broad to very personal. I saw all the people using the chair as members of my family. Members who had passed on. My grandparents on both sides and my dad are no longer with us.

I wanted to show a separation from the physical realm and so, I researched transparent substrates that could be used to paint and layer on canvas. Velum was one material that was suggested. I did a small trial run on a little 3”x 4” canvas and decided it would work. The larger piece was harder to get the velum to adhere without wrinkles, but I think the wrinkles add a texture that lends itself to the passing of time.

“Train to Nowhere”
by Stef Ratliff
Acrylic on canvas – 2021
168″ x 43.5″ | $25,000

Responding to
Coal Silo. Mine 29″
by David Lucas
Oil painting – 2000

Artist Statement:

Growing up in the coal fields during the beginning of the end of the “big coal boom” gives you an interesting perspective on the resource dependent place you call home. A lump of coal rolling off the back of a truck and cracking my parent’s windshield was not uncommon. Waiting for the 250 cars of coal to clear the tracks at the bridge was just part of your daily routine.

But, when I was almost a teenager the industry started changing. My father was a coal man, he worked in the tipple and sampled the mines all over Kentucky. I loved going to his office because that meant I got to go on the four-wheeler. Without my mother’s knowledge of course, we would “race the train” trying to keep up so we could cut in front of it before it tied us up at the bridge or crossing where we were in the mountains. I never minded getting caught by the train though, because the first collection of art I ever saw was on the sides of those coal cars.

Yes, the internet existed at this point, but it was nothing like what it is now. During this time Oregon Trail was a hot commodity on the school’s IBM computers. For me, each one of those coal cars opened a new section of the world to me. When the trains stopped coal and the companies were all sold off, they would ship every building, every conveyor belt, every scrap would be shipped away when a mine shut down. All that was ever left were the 9×9 squares of the floors and occasionally a broken-down coal car on a piece of dead-end track if you were lucky enough to find it in the weeds.

“Efa & Eniyan (Yoruba)”
by Frank X Walker
Wooden assemblage,
pine and stains

Responding to “Noah’s Ark”
by Hugo Sperger
Acrylic painting – 1987

Artist Statement

As a PK (preachers’ kid) I grew up surrounded by religious imagery, but almost all of it was Eurocentric and patriarchal. Although my mother’s Holiness church was very patriarchal, the fact that she still accepted her “call to preach” was a kind of activism.

All the people in Sperger’s ark scene are white. I wanted to challenge those old ideas in a non-traditional Garden of Eden scene that centers the Black family and women and even replaces the classic apple with fruit that could have actually grown in the region, unlike the apple. The title is in Yoruba, an African language and translates as Eve and Adam.

This piece is dedicated to women clergy of all denomination and to the Weathers/Payne dynasty which has produced more than their fair share of God-fearing evangelists, teachers, and preachers dating back to my mother’s best friend, Sister Kate.

“Papaw Breakfast” by Lacy Hale
Acrylic on canvas – 2021
24″ x 36″ | $715

Responding to “Butchering Hogs” by Nan Phelps
Painting, oil on masonite – 1985

Artist Statement

When discussing this piece and the one of Ronald McDonald that was also available with an artist friend, the conversation turned toward all the old men who gather in the mornings at fast food restaurants. At that point I knew immediately what I wanted to do in response to the hog killing painting. 

We are so disconnected from our food. I remember hearing stories from my parents and grandparents of hog killings, sorghum stir-offs, and other events that used to take place where people could gather and catch up while also helping their neighbors put food by for the winter, etc. Now we gather in different spaces and help others in different ways. 

Meet the artists

Frank X Walker

Multidisciplinary artist Frank X Walker is a native of Danville, KY, a graduate of the University of Kentucky, and completed an MFA in Writing at Spalding University in May 2003.

He says: “When I first saw Earnest Patton’s ‘Hospital Birth’ piece, I knew I wanted to respond creatively with something in wood. Folk art is evidence that one doesn’t need expensive academic training to express yourself visually. Ideally the original master and apprentice system is involved and allows a passing on of the craft which is the equivalent of studying with a master teacher then adapting your own original style.

Though it’s not hand carved in a traditional sense, I’d say that I’ve been highly influenced by the narrative style of my friend and wood carver, LaVon Van Williams, Jr. I think it’s harder to be a self-taught artist and still earn the respect you deserve even while producing high quality work, not unlike inventing your own poetic forms or genre as a writer.

I haven’t “painted with wood and a scroll saw” in long time. The drawing, cutting, sanding, staining, and reassembling process is very labor intensive and at least four times as time consuming as simply drawing and painting, but the final result is very satisfying. The two pieces in this exhibit are meant as a tribute to Black Women as the original creators of Life and the Word.

Lacy Hale

Lacy Hale was born in southeastern Kentucky. At the age of five she knew that she wanted to be an artist. At 18, she attended Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn, NY. At 20, she returned to southeastern Kentucky to pursue her professional artistic career. Hale has exhibited widely throughout Kentucky and New York City. Her murals can be found all over the state of Kentucky and in Virginia. She is the creator of the No Hate in My Holler slogan and design.

Her work was included in a traveling Smithsonian exhibit in 2012. In 2018 Lacy received the Eastern Kentucky Artist Impact Award. She was a 2017 Special Grant recipient from Great Meadows Foundation, a 2018 nominee for the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting Award, a 2016 Tanne Foundation Award recipient, a 2015 Nominee for the Joan Mitchell Foundation Emerging Artist Award, and a 2015 and 2020 recipient of the Kentucky Foundation for Women’s Artist Enrichment Grant.

She was awarded Appalachian Artist of the Year in 2021.

Lacy is co-founder of EpiCentre Arts, a 2016 Rauschenberg Foundation Seed Grant recipient, based in Whitesburg, Kentucky. She served two years on the board of the Kentucky Arts Council. Her work has been mentioned in Time Magazine by Kentucky author Silas House. Grammy Award winning hip hop artist Ishmael Butler also owns one of her pieces.

Stef Ratliff

“I used to slap stickers all over the furniture in my room growing up. I wanted to take the bland, plain functional desk, cabinet, drawer knob, whatever & make it more….make it cool, dreamy, a story from stickers, or make it into whatever the hell was going through my small head at the time.

I just wanted everything around me that was bland to be badass. That’s what I always want my art to be.” – Stef

Stef Ratliff (she/her), the wild woman behind KYARTRAT, pays tribute to her southern upbringing through her life & art. Ratliff’s true love is a tie between painting, music, & the fall hunting season. She is a professional set designer, award winning ceramic artist, painter, annual trophy artist for the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards, & a coal miner’s daughter from Pike County, KY. You can find her work currently on display across the USA.