L.W. Crawford

Outsider artist L.W. Crawford is from Montgomery, Alabama. He is known for his glitter crosses made from matchboxes, matchsticks, and covered with glitter. He learned how to make his glitter crosses while serving a prison term. Much attention has been paid to the diverse types of art made by prison inmates. Art from prison is often a cross between outsider art and folk art and is sometimes referred to as “mushfake”, (that’s prison slang for making articles out of cast-off or less-useful materials.) Since it costs money to be in prison, it was an enormous challenge for a prison artist to survive, and through making art, prisoners earn extra money.

Meeting with L.W. and Mose 1996 - By Anton Haardt, excerpt from “Mose T: From A to Z: The Folk Art of  Mose Tolliver".

    L.W. Crawford is a man in about his 40's and today he is dressed in a new shiny black leather outfit, with a red shirt on underneath. He even has on a black leather hat to match. On his front tooth, his initials "L W" are incised in gold, glowing when the light catches the reflection of the shiny metal. 

   L.W. Crawford is Mose’s ex son-in-law and had been at one time married to Mose's daughter, Annie Tolliver. In 1962, after LW had been charged with assault, he went to jail for eight years. L.W. explained to me that in those years, people in jail with time on their hands smoked a lot of cigarettes and thereby burned a lot of matches. With the discarded burned matchsticks, L.W. began to make art. He assembled and glued hundreds of burned matchsticks onto large matchbox constructions in the shape of crosses of all sizes and colors, and then added glitter.

   L.W. proudly boasted, "You know, Anton, really I'm the first one that got Mose started in painting. Back in 1962 when I went to jail, I made those glitter match crosses in the prison. You know, when you're in jail there's not much else to do but smoke, so you get lots of burned matchsticks. Even after I got out I worked on the matchboxes. Mose would see them around my room, cause we used to live with Mose back then. That's how he got inspired to make his paintings."