By Antonia Meadors
The hills of Tennessee can be bathed in stunning sunshine or covered by huge thunderheads in a matter of minutes. Things seem to run to extremes at times. The Deep South has an air of lingering funk that leads to the gothic. Tennessee can be a sun shower punctuated with a bolt of lightning–the fully romantic. It is a place where passions are barely controlled and sometimes set loose in an atmosphere of violence. These wild happenings of heartbreak, or murder and the lingering ghosts of these two key themes make up the local folk history.
This is the working ground of Randy Toy, “The Great Toyzini.” He is a story painter who takes the old and compares it with the new. He uses the bad as a yardstick to measure the good. As in an old folk story, or modern country song, the sad and lonely go hand in hand to cry in their beer and meditate on the angles. Anyone can be reborn, and anyone can go bad. Randy tries not to prejudge anyone, or let moralizing cloud his observations. However, Randy does try to pick up the detail that adds poignancy to a scene and turns the commonplace into a ritual.
These are the feelings that Randy grew up with and what he has always tried to retain in his paintings.
The installation of a new mural depicting the death of Edwin Hickman marks the first public art project by outsider artist,* Toyzini. Most of his past work deals with social comments, religious satire and the ever changing Southern way of life.
The 10ft x 6ft painting in the future home of the Hickman County Cultural Arts shows the county’s namesake under attack by the Creek Indians on an early April morning in 1791. The background is a peaceful scene of wild turkey and deer beside a sparkling Duck River, while the foreground explodes with violence. An overturned coffee cup represents the efforts of the surveying team.
The Hickman County Cultural Arts Center is located in the old courthouse in the center of the square in downtown Centerville, Tennessee, and open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and where a large body of his work will be exhibited on May 24th during the 2014 Arts & Ag Tour in Hickman County.
Many of Toyzini’s works portray a before and after, all of them thought provoking, while tackling large issues such as abortion, capital punishment and mental illness as it relates to mass shootings. He considers himself a storyteller, and often the story is very close to home. His work is engaging and easy to understand, but it is sometimes interpreted in various ways as the line between right and wrong is often determined by which side of the fence you are on. Once a Vanderbilt student said of his work “It is what a prostitute would hang in her trailer.”
His early influences include E. T. Wickman, a remote primitive who constructed concert sculptors along a rural road in middle Tennessee, Carol Cloar, Max Hochstettler, and a long time friend and nationally known sculptor, Olan Bryant.
Toyzini, a native of Hickman County, is mounting a major exhibit in Carrabelle, Florida in September and will be a visiting artist in Arkansas at the Fayetteville Underground Gallery in March 2015. The Great Toyzini’s work can also be seen at Wild Duck Soup Emporium, located on the Centerville Square.
*Outsider art can be defined as art produced by self-taught artists who are not part of the artistic establishment. (Source Oxford Dictionary)