Our cover this month, Native American Woman amidst Grasses (11½ in. by 8¾ in.) by Minnie Evans sold for $3,000 at Christie’s recent Beyond Imagination: Outsider and Vernacular Art Featuring the Collection of Marjorie and Harvey Freed sale in New York City on Jan. 19, 2018. Evans first kicked off her career at age 43, when she became inspired to document her frequent visions and vivid dreams.
Evans grew up in Wilmington, N.C., where she spent many years working as a gatekeeper at Airlie Gardens. It’s said that her artwork was partly inspired by these gardens, as a recurring theme in her paintings is a human face surrounded by plants or animals (similar to the one at hand). With little money, Evans impressively painted on whatever material was available, including her first artwork, which was done on a scrap of a paper bag. She also worked with unusual media for a well-regarded artist—often using relatively inexpensive wax crayons or ink in lieu of paint.
Evans initially felt her work was too personal to share, but finally agreed to a major public exhibition in 1961, at the encouragement of photographer Nina Howell Starr, who helped guide and launch Evans’ career. Evans continued to work until passing away at the age of 95. Though we don’t know about the extent of her estate planning, we do know that Evans had philanthropic intentions: She left more than 400 artworks to the St. Johns Museum of Art (now the Cameron Art Museum) in Wilmington, N.C.