Arts & Culture

The “Dust My Broom” Exhibit Explores The Legacy of Artistic Traditions From The American South

Willard Hill Untitled (2016–2018), Mixed media/masking tape, 9 x 8 x 17”, Collection of the California African American Museum, via

Since September, the California African American Museum (CAAM) has been showcasing its largest selection of works by Southern vernacular artists through their exhibition titled Dust My Broom: Southern Vernacular from the Permanent Collection. 

Paying homage to the 1930s Blues song “Dust My Broom” by Robert Johnson, the exhibit’s artworks were created by mostly self-taught artists from the American South who have been ignored by the mainstream art world throughout the span of their careers.  “The exhibition brings rightful shine to these artists, celebrating the minor victories of daily Southern life in the face of glaring racial injustices buoyed by Jim Crow over generations,” wrote Hyperallergic’s Jasmine Weber. Mediums of creation include quilts, paintings, drawings and sculptures. The artwork emphasizes themes that examine social justice, folklore, Southern Christianity, daily life, and more. 

In a statement about the Dust My Broom exhibit, CAAM Museum writes: “The exhibition showcases numerous recent acquisitions and places them in the context of other works from the permanent collection—specifically, alongside those connected to the California assemblage movement, including by Noah Purifoy and John Outterbridge, Los Angeles artists who were born in the South. In this regard, Dust My Broom explores the affirmation, continuity, and innovation of African American southern vernacular aesthetics brought into the West through several waves of migration. Complemented by additional loans from local collections, these compelling works illustrate the breadth of approaches practiced by artists from the South, as well as by contemporary artists, including Dominique Moody, John T. Riddle Jr., and Betye and Alison Saar, who absorbed southern influences through personal experience, family ties, and their peers.”

“Missionary” Mary Proctor, Music Heals (detail), 2009 Mixed media on blue jeans. Collection of the California African American Museum, via

Within, you’ll find the works of folk artists Sam Doyle and “Missionary” Mary Proctor, Purvis Young, Leanna Johnson, Leroy Almond, and several more. Curated by Program Director Mar Hollingsworth, Dust My Broom: Southern Vernacular from the Permanent Collection runs until March 15th, 2020. To learn more, please visit

Dominique Moody, “Reunion” (1996), mixed media (via

Ayanna Nicole

Hi! I’m Ayanna, a 29-year-old writer and artist. Although I graduated from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte with two degrees in art and psychology, I’ve had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember. By following my dreams and utilizing my creativity, I designed Jaro Magazine with the ultimate intention of bringing more positive stories in the black community to the forefront, while also highlighting our versatile and vibrant culture through Jaro’s four modes: film, books, art, and music. I also manage a book hub, which you can find on Instagram @bloomingliterature.

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