"Mose T A to Z: Folk Art of Mose Tolliver" By Anton Haardt Book review by Bernadette Geyer


Whether you refer to him as a self-taught artist or a folk artist, Mose Tolliver is a legend and an inspiration. Disabled when a crate of marble fell on his feet and legs, Tolliver turned to art in order to “keep his head together.” But not everyone who practices art therapeutically gains the recognition that Tolliver achieved.

So how did Mose T, as he was known, transform from a gardener/housepainter/ shipping employee into an internationally known and respected folk artist? The answer to this question can be found in Anton Haardt’s book Mose T, A to Z: The Folk Art of Mose Tolliver.

Haardt and Tolliver could not be more different. As the Foreword notes, Haardt was an “accomplished young woman from a socially prominent Alabama family” while Tolliver was a “middle-aged, partially disabled African American painter.” But, they were both artists in Montgomery Alabama. Haardt was drawn to Tolliver’s pictures – with fantastical titles like Jimma Jamma Girl and X-Ray Dry Bones Charlie – which were often displayed in his front yard. Neighbors and artists would often pay him one or two dollars per picture.

In this collection of anecdotes and quotes from Tolliver’s life, alongside an abecedarian compendium of some of his art, Haardt has given the world an opportunity to know Tolliver the way she did. Haardt even includes a timeline of important dates and exhibitions throughout Tolliver’s career.

Mose Tolliver died October 31, 2006. He was in his 80s. Haardt’s book is a must-read for art lovers, as well as for those who think art is only for the wealthy.
Mose T showed us all there is art in doing what you love and loving what you do.

--Bernadette Geyer

Bernadette Geyer is a freelance writer and editor. Geyer is the author of the chapbook WHAT REMAINS (Argonne House Press), and recipient of a Strauss Fellowship from the Arts Council of Fairfax County. She has also written non-fiction for publications such as GoNOMAD, Slow Travel Berlin, and WRITERS' Journal.