Rev. George Kornegay
September 6 - October 8, 2017
“This property is a sacred place. This was a Indian village way back before my daddy got here. It’s a burial place. My daughter can hear voices out here talking but she can’t tell us what they’re talking about. This is one of them places where you come when you’re feeling bad and go away lifted up. They all say this is a sacred place.”
–From a conversation between William S. Arnett and Rev. George Kornegay in 1997
New Jerusalem is the first-ever solo exhibition of paintings, found-object assemblages and works on paper by the late self-taught artist, Rev. George Kornegay (1913–2014). Kornegay, who was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, began transforming his property in Brent, Alabama, into a large-scale outdoor art environment following a vision that he experienced around 1980, in which he claimed that God directed him to create art in order to better communicate his religious messages.
Over the years, Kornegay gave his art garden many different names— “The New Jerusalem,” “Seven Holy Mountains,” “House of the Apocalypse” and “Sacred Mountain.” Kornegay’s obsessively covered his yard with paintings rendered on scrap metal and wood, evocative found-object constructions, stacks of painted televisions, bottle trees with their limbs capped in colorful glass, mounds of painted tires, wooden teepees, and organized arrangements of stones. Kornegay created highly stylized depictions of Biblical narratives by recycling the cultural detritus around him; however, his inventive use of materials, combined with an innate ability to create abstract, bold forms, lends his work a power that transcends religious storytelling.
Although Kornegay’s art environment was one of the largest, African-American yard shows in the South, few works by this prolific artist remain in existence today. It is the nature of outdoor art, particularly when created with found materials, to decay and return to the earth. Many of the pieces in Kornegay’s yard weathered irreparably over time, and the artist and his family often hesitated to sell works to passersby and visitors.
The exhibition New Jerusalem culls a selection of works from multiple collections and was organized in association with the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas.