Sunday, April 3, 2011

In Touch With a Shaman: Charlie Logan

(Above) Charlie Logan’s beaded hat (turned upside down) which is very similar to an African Kuba hat. Notice the red cross on the back inside wall.
(Above left) The “Diamond Sis” coat—and a detail of the intricate sewing, embroidery and obsessive patterning.
(Above left) Charlie’s bow-tie with the letters “H” and “N,” which, according to Charlie, stood for “Heaven.” Also, rings and a watch fob, which did not hold a watch but various charm-like items.

(Above right) Close up view of two of Charlie’s many canes.
(Above) The “SAVED” jacket, with the words “Prety K” just to the upper left of the word “SAVED.” The upper portion of the jacket has the embroidered words “I never lost the sun… shine an(d) roses.”
(Above) Photograph of Charlie Logan, near his home in Alton, IL in 1979. All photographs © by Kate and Ken Anderson.

Almost 8 years ago, as the 10-year editor of ENVISION Folk Art of Missouri, I published an exciting in-depth article about what I feel was one of the most important discoveries in African American culture and studies in the last 50 years. The discovery was made by Kate and Ken Anderson, St. Louis artists who were early collectors of folk, self-taught and outsider art. The discovery occurred in 1979, when a chance encounter with an elderly man set forth a 5-year friendship and ultimately, the documentation and preservation of the clothes, canes and accoutrements of what can only be described as a modern day shaman. Charlie Logan was an enigma, a wise man who held secrets that he rarely spoke of. According to the renowned Maude Southwell Waldman, who was the author of the ENVISION article, “Logan was a conjureman, a healer and a maker of protective charms.”

At that time, the ENVISION publication (Vol. 9, Issue 1, January 2004) was published on a shoestring budget and consequently, in black and white. When I discovered (just last night) the original scans of these rare images in COLOR, I realized that I had to get them out for people to see. The entire set of clothes (28 pieces in all) were acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where they are today.

Ms. Waldman wrote that Charlie’s clothes “were similar to embroidered and sequined Haitian Ra Ra garments; Mardi Gras costumes and Kongo and Kuba colorful, patchworked, appliquéd, and often beaded costumes.” Charlie often sewed coins and other money into his jacket, giving the reason for doing so as: “so that it would not be stolen.”

Waldman concluded her extensive and very complete article with this: “I conclude that Charlie Logan was probably a conjureman who came up the Mississippi River from New Orleans. I think he was a very knowledgeable man who knew many African religious traditions and encoded at least some of them in his arts.”

Reposted from 12/30/08


Professor Chaos said...

Wow. Those are amazing. I may have to go to Philadelphia now.

Ophelia said...

Adore the jacket. What a creative
artist, this man.

secretleaves said...

Incredible! How could this man be from Alton and I have never heard of him? Thank you for sharing.


Unknown said...

C'est superbe,beau travail, stéphane

leslie Permuter Brownstein said...

I live in St. Louis and never heard of him either......

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