Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One Bad Cat

                                                  Holy by Albert Wagner

                                      Mississippi Mud by Albert Wagner

The first time I ever heard about Albert Wagner is when I watched One Bad Cat: The Reverend Albert Wagner Story, an award-winning 2008 documentary that chronicles the life of this so-called “Moses of East Cleveland”.  The movie takes us on a wild ride through the ups and downs of his life, including his origins as the child of sharecroppers to his becoming a “slave to sex, wine and women” to him being spontaneously and miraculously reborn as an artist and ordained minister.

Albert Wagner’s story is a very interesting one to say the least.  The entire time I watched it I kept going back and forth about whether I actually liked him or not.  Should I focus on the passion he puts into his paintings or the truly heinous crime he was convicted of?  Either way, people tend to have very strong opinions about him and his work. 

His critics think that his art is too basic and primitive and that it reflects his controversial views about race relations, which often conflict with opinions found in the rest of the Black community.  His supporters believe that his work is simple and soulful in the tradition of great folk art, and that it’s an important contribution to the art world. 

What do you think?  Watch the movie here and let me know.


  1. While I do agree that his art is very soulful, I would not necessarily call it folk art. I think it is controversial and thought provoking. I think black people might have a problem with it because of the sensitive nature of racism in America and what we and our ancestors experienced. That said, I believe it forces us to take a deeper look inside ourselves, as black people, to see how we often do ourselves a disservice by not seeing the greatness that lies within us. We may not like it, but the art calls us out and shows us what we are and who we can become if we stop making excuses. It pushes boundaries and starts discussions. I don't think white people could ever appreciate it like black people (myself included) should.

    BTW- What a life!

    Also, I think some of the "calling out" he does is based on his own life and some of his former ways of thinking.

    Now the religious teaching is another story and I don't agree with our "curse".

  2. You stated you kept going back and forth on whether or not you liked him. Have you resolved this uncertainty? I'm sure I'm not the only reader of this entry that is interested in your less objective thoughts about Wagner's art.

  3. I can appreciate the rawness of his artwork because I do see a lot of heart and soul in his pieces. But, I'm still undecided about him as a person. I want to believe that he was a changes person, but I don't know ... What do you think?

  4. Okay! I'd like to chime in on his changes. And be warned, this is based on some personal family experiences. I think men can change, but I don't think he has. I think he's just gotten too old and too sickly to do anything other than paint. I like his art, but I think his change is not real. He has a cult following in his family and friends. That's indicative of some serious internal issue that is born our of a need to elevate himself. He's narcissistic.

  5. I think I agree with you Ayana. He probably didn't really change fundamentally as a person. And his "church" really does give off a kind of cult vibe.