Folk Artist- Joe Minter, Sr. - "African Village"

Joe Minter, Sr (born c. 1942) is a retired construction worker and "outsider" artist who created his "African Village in America" at his home and adjoining vacant lot at 912 Nassau Street near Shadow Lawn Memorial Park in the Woodland Park neighborhood.

A Retired construction worker, Joe Minter, has created a spiritually inspired sculpture garden in his yard, built from objects he found or 

bought at flea markets, thrift shops and garage sales. (The Birmingham News / Frank Couch)There may be only one place in America to see the Scripture verse John 3:16 painted on a tailgate removed from a Dodge pickup truck, propped up against a fence next to a historic cemetery.

It's the same place where giant red plastic letters from a defunct movie theater are nailed to a wooden fence, spelling out "His Word is Real."

Those distinctive creations are the work of folk artist

Joe Minter of Birmingham, part of his African Village, a yard full of hand-painted boards and pieces of metal, stacked and mounted in ways that may make sense to no one but Minter himself.

"Every piece has got a story," Minter said.

Joe Minter's colorful creations at his African Village include the Beatitudes painted on boards. (The Birmingham News / Frank Couch)He has welded giant rusty wrenches into six crosses. He has a crown of thorns made of encircled barbed wire, mounted on a kind of robotic metal crucifix.

It's a mishmash of religious folk art and tributes to patriotism and African ancestry.

"It becomes symbolically taking something that's been discarded and giving it new life," said Rutgers University scholar Charles Russell, editor of "Self-Taught Art: The Culture and Aesthetics of American Vernacular Art," who wrote an article on Minter for the December issue of the arts journal Raw Vision. "It has a spiritual message and a cultural message, taking pieces of the past that have not been valued and bringing them back and giving them value."

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