Story: Lisa Sollie

Visual artist Garland Farwell kicked off a year-long artist-residency, Monday, Feb. 19 at the University of West Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Library, with a folk-art exhibit of hex signs, a uniquely American art form and best-known symbol of the Pennsylvania Dutch, interpreted through an African American, southern and rural lens. These simple symbols trace their lineage to the area’s German ancestors, and are thought to be decorations created to ward off bad luck or to garner good fortune. 

Born in Los Angeles, California, Farwell, whose early career centered in the New York theater world as a designer and director of performances utilizing experimental puppetry and masks, now resides in York, Alabama.

Art and design traditions such as quilting and hex sign painting are major influences on Farwell’s work. In Alabama, while working as a teaching artist and muralist in local school districts and communities, Farwell has found an opportunity to pursue a more traditional studio practice exploring painting, sculpture and mixed media.

“UWA is fortunate to have someone of Garland’s caliber, whose solo and collaborative works have been featured and exhibited in New York, South Africa, Brazil and Europe, share his works at our university,” noted Christin Loehr, public service associate at the Julia Tutwiler Library. “As artist-in-residence, Garland will provide new shows for the gallery wall every three or four months. We are particularly happy to work with him because he is all about community; and the primary materials of his practice mostly reclaimed wood and metal sourced salvaged from historic dwellings in and around Sumter County, added Loehr, “and we look forward to seeing his future exhibits.”

UWA’s Julia Tutwiler Library is open Sunday, 2:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m.; Monday – Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 12:00 a.m.; Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 12 noon until 4:00 p.m.