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Artists: John Henry Toney

John Henry Toney
John Henry Toney is a true original. Born in 1928 in rural Russell County Alabama, he spent about six years in elementary school before leaving to live a life of farming, hard work and deprivation. He still lives in the county. He is a deeply religious man, and is locally known as "Mustache Jesus." He had no thought of being an artist until he was 66 years old.

In 1995, John Henry plowed up a turnip "with a face on it." He decided he needed to draw a picture of the turnip, and this led to more and more fanciful artworks, derived from a quite remarkable imagination. He began by drawing on cardboard boxes, and moved to poster board, using paint pens and pencil. John Henry took a few of his pieces around to the Mayor's Office. The Mayor, who happened to appreciate original thinking and creativity, showed them to various friends and acquaintances. Only a few years after starting his artistic career, John Henry is widely collected regionally, and has been featured in Folk Art shows in Alabama (Celebrating the Vision) and Kentucky (Festival of the Arts).

One can not help noticing that John Henry's inspiration includes the Bible, but also those "big women" with torpedo breasts, to whom he pays homage in many of his paintings.

We present eleven drawings by this remarkable artist, including a unusually sexy turnip. (Note: we are not making the titles up - they are hand written on the back of the drawings). Also, you will often see several numbers on his paintings, e.g., 73 and 2003. The first is his age when he completed the piece, the second is the expiration date of his drivers license at that time. The last is his old telephone number.) So the modern "Da Vinci Code" is thus deciphered.

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