Sims' art to be displayed at RSTC

Published 3:32 am Monday, February 2, 2009

By Staff
An Art Exhibit featuring the work of Bernice Sims will be held during the month of February at Reid State Technical College in the Edith A Gray Library.
An opening reception will be held Thursday, February 5, at 1:30 p.m. During the reception the Brewton artist will be on hand to share her personal inspirations for the 30 works of art on display.
The exhibit will coincide with the RSTC celebration of Black History Month.
Area residents and students are invited to schedule a visit during the month of February.
However, in Sims' paintings, the people seem larger within the frame and display more action. The main themes of her work are the country life of her childhood and the Civil Rights Movement, both recreated on canvas from her memories of those times.
While she has had a difficult life, she has demonstrated much personal courage, strength, faith and talent resulting in national recognition as a self taught memory painter.
Sims was born in Georgiana on Christmas Day, 1926 to Robert and Essie Johnson, the oldest of 10 children.
She spent most of her childhood with her grandparents in the tiny Butler County community of Hickory Hill, between Chapman and Georgiana.
In Hickory Hill, she lived in a racially mixed neighborhood and was befriended by the maiden Warren sisters, who ran a nearby store. “Miss Hattie” Warren was an artist herself.
She gave young Sims used brushes and paint, and encouraged her to draw.
In these early years, Sims painted people and animals, including her childhood dog “Old Jane” (white with black spots &still appearing in Sims' paintings). She first painted on cardboard and brown paper. Her integrated, happy childhood no doubt influenced her recurring themes of bi-racial groups working together.
In the late 1970's, after her children were grown, Sims returned school and earned a GED at age 52.
In the early 1980s, Sims became disabled by a knee injury and had to have surgery.
Unable to work, Sims enrolled in an art class at Jefferson Davis Community College. Her childhood interest in art was rekindled by an art teacher named Larry Manning.
Manning took a special interest in her, provided encouragement, and became her first patron.
She found that painting then took her mind off of her pain and illnesses after her knee surgery.
A defining moment in her artistic life came in 1984 when she accompanied Manning to an exhibit of self-taught art at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
Part of this field trip included a visit to meet Montgomery artist Mose Tolliver.
Sims said she was inspired and encouraged when she met Mose and saw his work. She beleived if he could paint his own way and be successful, she could also.
Sims began in earnest her new career as a memory painter in the late 1980s.
In addition to the memory paintings of her childhood, scenes from the Civil Rights movement are frequent subjects of her paintings.
As her art career blossomed, Sims painted creek baptisms, the Selma Bridge March, schools, churches and children playing.
Sims has been a social historian on canvas recording the shared cultural experiences of African-Americans in the difficult years.
The exhibit will be open to the public throughout February.

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