Johnnie Lee Gray works on exhibit at Hood Seminary

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 12, 2014

Hood Theological Seminary, in cooperation with the Southern Arts Project and the Rev. Shirley Sims Gray, widow of nationally renowned artist Johnnie Lee Gray and student at Hood Theological Seminary, will host an exhibition of 21 pieces of the original artwork created by Johnnie Lee Gray.
A silent auction of giclée reproductions of the original artwork will be available during the exhibit, with a portion of the proceeds going to the seminary.
The exhibit and silent auction will be held in the Aymer Center the week of today through May 17 and is open to the public Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and to the seminary community Thursday through Saturday.
Raised by South Carolina sharecroppers, Johnnie Lee Gray was born poor and lived in a segregated rural community in the 1950s. He worked as a carpenter and handyman to support himself, his wife Shirley, and his artistic pursuits. Like other self-taught artists, he often painted on scavenged materials like discarded plywood and used house paints. His paintings depict the triumph of the human spirit and its ability to rise above any indignity.
New York Life discovered the paintings of the late Johnnie Lee Gray when researching for an art exhibit on the story of Jim Crow and in 2002 sponsored the first-ever national exhibition of the paintings of Johnnie Lee Gray. In promoting the Gray exhibit, New York Life said, “By exhibiting his work nationwide, we not only grant Johnnie Lee Gray his rightful place among American artists, we also honor his subjects. Although, in their time, the people in his paintings may have been on the invisible outer edges of U.S. society, they will now never be forgotten.”
The previews of that exhibit were held at Russell Rotunda in Washington, D.C., and at Forbes Galleries in New York City, and subsequently the show traveled to Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York and then onto Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles throughout 2003.
In expressing her desire to make arrangements for this nationally acclaimed exhibit to come to Hood Seminary, the Rev. Shirley Sims Gray said, “This is an exciting opportunity both to honor the works of my late husband and to help this special seminary.”
Hood Theological Seminary, located at 1810 Lutheran Synod Drive, is a graduate and professional school where intellectual discourse and ministerial preparation occur in tandem within the framework of a community of faith. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, the seminary is sponsored by the AME Zion Church and approved by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church. Its student body includes persons from many different denominations. As a theological seminary, it provides for the church an educational community in which Christian maturity and ministerial preparation take place together.