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Roger Brown Archive

It is almost a decade and a half since his death but Roger Brown (1941-1997) still lives in the minds and hearts of many due to his outstanding artistic work. Born in Hamilton (Alabama) and brought up in Opelika, Brown's paintings are major attraction points in most significant art museums in the United States of America. Other than being an excellent artist, he was also a very generous man; leading to donation of his home in Chicago to School of the Art Institute of Chicago and it also houses a house museum and an archive (Roger Brown Resources, 2006).  This paper presents an experience of events after visiting the Roger Brown Archive.

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According to Smith (1997), the archive is made up of various interesting artifacts ranging from beautiful decorated walls to paintings that are out of this world. The archive has: found objects originating from flair market, outsider art, primitive or naive art, textiles, baskets, glass, travel souvenir, toys, Brown's original sketch books and furniture. Most of the artifacts here take a form of salon style in its arrangement. The artifacts, sculpture and paintings cover every plausible surface area.

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The archive brings out the works and tells the background of very talented artists whose paintings and other works of art are displayed. His work can be interpreted to bring out the essence of traditional folk idioms coupled with objects made from material culture and popular crafts. His work is mostly folk and outsider art. Brown's work incorporates both popular and fine arts and did not embrace the "high/low" dichotomy. It can be strongly affirmed that he was a very determined self-taught artist (Roger Brown Resources, 2006).

The works of Brown for the selection criteria of this archive adapted many spatial concepts and themes other than yielding what were frequently caustic morality plays concealed as beautifully composed, luminescent paintings. The themes communicated include a grim view of humanity displayed in strangely merry patterned forms. Other themes include: homosexuality, and skeptical treatment of military leaders and presidents (Smith, 1997).

The question emerging about this archive were just how long it did take for Brown to assemble all this massive archive with numerous paintings some of which take a long time before being completed.  It was also difficult to understand the driving force behind his coming up with some paintings.

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There is much that can be applied from Bruton's reading to this archive. For instance, Burton looks at archives as "a deliberate/intentional versus haphazardly as evidence". The archive was deliberately developed by Brown to act as a centre for knowledge and recreation. Burton also suggests that archives are stories in that they bring about memory, feeling and recreation as it is the case with Roger Brown Archive.

There are a number of theoretical issues arising from the archive as evident from the themes being communicated within it. Contemporary issues such as homosexuality are clearly displayed.  Violent images of nuclear accidents, earthquakes among other catastrophes together with issues like mass suicide are clearly underscored (Smith, 1997).

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