Simon Sparrow

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Simon Sparrow
Born 1925
North Carolina
Died 2000
Madison, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Education self-taught
Known for Painting and mixed media
Awards Wisconsin Visual Arts Lifetime Achievement Award

Simon Sparrow (1925-2000) was an American folk artist, a painter and mixed media artist who was born in West Africa and grew up in North Carolina on a Cherokee Reservation. He was a self-taught artist and received a Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award (WVALAA) in 2012.[1] Sparrow's work is considered folk art and his piece Assemblage with Found Objects is held by the Smithsonian American Art Museum on the 3rd Floor, Luce Foundation Center.[2]

Simon Sparrow began creating art at age seven and also began his practice of informal and street preaching in his youth.[3] He moved to Philadelphia and enlisted in the army in 1942. He later moved to New York before settling in Madison, Wisconsin.[4]

Sparrow is best known for his mixed media constructions and paintings, which he began creating once he moved to Madison, Wisconsin in the 1970s.[4] One of his pieces, "Simon Sparrow Outsider Art Picture, ca. 1980" was appraised on Antiques Roadshow in July 2009 for $6,000-8,000.[5] On 20 May 2012, Sparrow was posthumously awarded a WVALAA along with 13 other honorees.[6]


Some exhibitions of note for Sparrow's work include:

Sponsored by Comcast Corporation and Duane Morris, this exhibition was organized around self-taught artists that worked in "remote or rural places with unconventional methods and with materials such as reclaimed wood, sheet metal, house paint, and stove soot."[4]

  • "Off Center: Outsider Art in the Midwest" - Minnesota Museum of American Art (1996)
  • "Visionaries, Outsiders and Spiritualists: American Self-Taught Artists" (1994)

Organized by Entourage: Exhibitions of Horsham, PA. this exhibit of 16 self-taught artists included some of Sparrow's "masklike heads (that) appear to radiate auras of energy, as if embodying a spiritual force."[7]

  • "Structure and Surface: Beads in Contemporary American Art" - Renwick Gallery (1990)

Featuring some of Sparrow's "untitled collages (that) combine commercial beads, stick figures and found objects such as rocks, metallic chains, glitter and tinsel to portray religious imagery."[8]


  1. ^ "Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Awards: Simon Sparrow". Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Assemblage with Found Objects by Simon Sparrow". Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Center. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Simon Sparrow". Raw Vision. Spring 2001. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Philadelphia Tribune. 03 March 2013. ""Great and Mighty Things" presents drawings, paintings, sculptures, and other objects by twenty-seven self-taught artists." pg 4-5
  5. ^ "Antiques Roadshow, Madison Hour 3 (#1409)". Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  6. ^ "Local artist Evelyn Patricia Terry to be honored on May 20". Milwaukee Courier. 11 May 2012. 
  7. ^ The New York Times. Sunday, 01 May 1994. "Outsider Artists and a Beginner at Nearly Age 80." pg 34
  8. ^ Stonesifer, Jene (9 August 1990). "Beads: More than Art on a String". The Washington Post. p. 30. 

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