ART, CULTURE, FEATURE STORY

Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts Documentary Film Opens Friday, April 16th at the Detroit Cinema Lamont Virtual Screening Room

You can watch the Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts documentary film this Friday, April 16th in Detroit’s Cinema Lamont Virtual Screening Room. The film won the Jury Prize for Freedom Award at the 2019 Fine Arts Film Festival. It was also featured in the 2019 Freep Film Festival.

Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts is a film by director Jeffrey Wolf. He was first introduced to Bill Traylor’s artwork in 1982 at the “Black Folk Art in America” watershed exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

“Since encountering Bill Traylor’s art almost 40 years ago,” says Wolf, “I have long contemplated his work, wanting to unravel and dig deeper into his world. Today, Bill Traylor is one of the most celebrated self-taught artists, with one of the most remarkable and unlikely biographies.”

Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts documentary film opens on April 16th at Detroit’s Cinema Lamont Virtual Screening Room.
Black artist Bill Traylor is pictured with his artwork. Watch the Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts documentary film!
Artist Bill Traylor is pictured with his artwork.

READ: THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN NATIONAL MUSEUM MOVES TO THE CHARLES H. WRIGHT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY IN DETROIT


ABOUT THE BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS DOCUMENTARY FILM

This illuminating documentary explores the life of a unique American artist, a man with a remarkable and unlikely biography. Bill Traylor was born into slavery in 1853 on a cotton plantation in rural Alabama.

After the Civil War, Traylor continued to farm the land as a sharecropper until the late 1920s. Aging and alone, he moved to Montgomery and worked odd jobs in the thriving segregated black neighborhood.

A decade later, in his late 80s, Traylor became homeless and started to draw and paint, both memories from plantation days and scenes of a radically changing urban culture. 

Billy Traylor artwork depiction of a yellow and blue house with figures and dog. Untitled from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum 1994 Bill Traylor Family Trust
Untitled from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum 1994 Bill Traylor Family Trust

Having witnessed profound social and political change during a life spanning slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, and the Great Migration, Traylor devised his own visual language to translate an oral culture into something original, powerful, and culturally rooted. He made well over a thousand drawings and paintings between 1939-1942. This colorful, strikingly modernist work eventually led him to be recognized as one of America’s greatest self-taught artists and the subject of a Smithsonian retrospective.

Using historical and cultural context, Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts brings the spirit and mystery of Traylor’s incomparable art to life. Making dramatic and surprising use of tap dance and evocative period music, the film balances archival photographs and footage, insightful perspectives from his descendants, and Traylor’s striking drawings and paintings to reveal one of America’s most prominent artists to a wide audience.

Bill Traylor artwork depiction of a brown  dog fighting a black dog.  Untitled from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum 1994 Bill Traylor Family Trust
Untitled from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum 1994 Bill Traylor Family Trust

The Bill Traylor film is 75 minutes long and you can watch the trailer here if you like. Visit the official documentary website for more information about the film. You can also follow along on social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The fee is $12 for a 5-day pass to watch the film. Click here to access Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts film documentary.


Photography credit and source: Kino Lorber

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