An art discovery of MC “Five Cent” Jones
As I strolled through a list of catalog items on the web for a Decorative Arts auction recently, I wandered onto some watercolors that were interesting. The first piece was an African American woman. Next to her were these words: “M C JONES 5 Cent Watercolor Portrait on paper.”
I knew that this was folk art, or what is commonly known as outsider art, because such artists are not art-schooled but life-schooled. They are considered “outside” the normal art experience.
There were nine pieces by Jones, and they spoke to me of growing up Southern and farming and fields, and the mom-and-pop restaurants and juke joints that fill up on Friday nights with tired bodies after a long week of hard working at miserable jobs.
With a name like 5 Cent, I had to Google him. MC Jones, according to several websites I visited, was a Gilliam, LA, folk artist who was born in 1910 and died in 2003. He was nicknamed 5 Cent because of his small stature. Jones was a ranch and farm hand who painted rural scenes, from Klansmen to religious themes.
You can read more about him and see more of his art here on the Gordon Gallery (Nashville, TN) website, here on the Robert Cargo Folk Art Gallery website (Paoli, PA), and an obituary on the Ginger Young Gallery (Chapel Hill, NC) website. His artwork is in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art.
The nine works in the auction belonged to Clyde Connell, a white female artist who apparently knew and collected him (and whose artwork is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Connell died in 1998. I was told that she commissioned Jones to create the “Tree Hunter and Dogs” (above) for her husband who was a hunter.
I decided that I wanted to own one of the watercolors. ”Men Plowing” (above) spoke to me, with its larger-than-life farmers pushing their plows in perfect unison through the soil.
I had to leave early so I left a bid of $100 for the watercolor, and was told that I’d get an email from the auction house that night if I won. I never got the email, and found out later that I was outbidded. Too bad, but I’m sure 5 Cent and I will cross paths again. I was told that most of his artwork went for a little more than $100
I was told that the painting at right is a self-portrait of Jones called “The Cowboy.” The photo below comes from the Ginger Young Gallery website.