Architecture & Design // 1 min Read

The Endless Evolution of Panhandle Slim

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Jul 14, 2021

It’s as hard to define Panhandle Slim’s journey as it is to define his art.

His work, painted on found materials and scraps of wood, at first glance seems to hum with both a childlike innocence and a punk rock sense of defiance. Looking as much like finger painting as fine art, they nonetheless transfix the viewer with their vivid imagery and simple linework. But then you take another look and see that even though each line forms the simplest of arcs, they capture something in the subject you may have never seen.

It could be a famous face such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Jimmy Carter or a lesser-known muse such as Ben Tucker or Kim Gordon. No matter their notoriety, each looks forth from a Panhandle Slim painting like an icon of a lost age. Like something out of Ozymandias, only their words remain.

From beside her steady gaze, Maya Angelou’s timeless words from “Love Liberates,” “I’m thankful to have been loved and now be able to love,” float in childlike red lettering against a yellow backdrop. Beside the cartoonishly soaring updo of Dolly Parton reads, “Find out who you are. And do it on purpose.” And you’ll find countless variations of the late Justice Ginsberg declaring, “I dissent.”

As an oeuvre, it’s a very simple format, one found on memes across the internet. Which is part of what makes Panhandle Slim such a perfect artist for the moment.

“This simple art that I do connects with people,” he said. “I’ve never been formally trained. It still feels funny to be called an artist. It’s nice, but I didn’t plan on it.”

Whether he finds it funny or not, Panhandle Slim is an artist. And the effortlessly nontraditional streak that informs his art has taken on a few variations along the way.

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