Reverend Seymour Perkins Courtesy photo
Seymour Perkins exhibits his African-American sculpture and painting at San Angel Folk Art

Born in the sleepy town of Halettsville, Texas, in 1930, Reverend Seymour Perkins has long called the East Side of San Antonio his home. The last decade has been one of serial tragedy for Perkins: He lost his daughter in an act of drug-related violence several years ago, and his beloved church on Hackberry Street, which sat conveniently next door to his family home, burned to the ground in 1999.

Despite - or perhaps because of - the hostility of his immediate environment, Perkins remains spiritually positive in his demeanor and visual art. At 73, Perkins is still a practicing minister. He continues to conduct his non-traditional Sunday worship services and Bible studies through a bullhorn on top of the concrete slab that once supported his church. Around this impromptu house of the holy sit his handmade objects of beauty, each lovingly created from items the rest of us discard with a shrug. His elaborate woodcarvings and whimsical paintings are on exhibit at San Angel Folk Art.

Perkins started carving wood nearly a decade ago, and has been painting for five years. His stiff, flat human figures rest against solid, often brightly colored backgrounds. Perkins paints on wood and paper found along the side of the road or dug from long-forgotten archives: old cabinet doors, faded maps, scraps of deteriorated signs. Some of his paintings at San Angel are rendered atop old maps of the near East Side - maps that Perkins associates with one of his infatuations: the underground railroad.

Through September 28
11am-6pm daily
San Angel Folk Art
110 Blue Star
Aside from the occasional still life or animal, most of Perkins' subjects are influential African Americans: scholars, politicians, poets, entertainers, athletes. His current exhibit, "With These Hands," includes images of Martin Freeman, Sammy Davis Jr., Fredrick Douglas, and historical Anglo figures such as John F. Kennedy. Perkins subtly Africanizes the fallen leader, injecting Kennedy's distinctive features with black characteristics. Recently, Perkins became obsessed with the nation's founding fathers - specifically, images of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in their youth. He is attracted to their archaic hairpieces, and has recently begun to place this distinctive form upon the heads of random subjects in his paintings.

Perkins' exquisite woodcarvings demonstrate a deep understanding of the craft. He carves stately walking sticks out of fallen tree branches - long, delicate staffs crowned with regal faces the artist simply describes as "African heads." He transforms trite bowls of fake, decorative fruit into countless smooth faces. Perkins' wood work is wonderfully tactile, striking a balance between refined, smoothed-over areas and untouched natural bark. •

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