1942 -

Alyne Harris

Gainesville, Florida

    I been drawing since I was a girl coming up, about eight years old, in Gainesville, Florida. I was born there in 1942, I came up out there in the country. Me and my sisters, we would play in the dirt down at the Pleasant Grove Cemetery. My sisters be messing around making mudcakes and stuff, and I would draw little angels in the sand, and trees, flowers, birds, stuff like that. Draw all over the ground. My brother, he take his feet and erase it all. I had to bust him with my fists, and Grandmother make me take the consequences.

    I had these imagination visions back there when I was a kid. I could see it in my head what it is I wanted to paint. I liked to draw people and chickens and stuff like that, too. I was doing stuff all the time. I do that finger painting in elementary school. Then I started doing brush painting in school, too. Teacher say, whoever finished their work, do what they want. Most kids go play; I go draw and paint. After I get home from school I would want to get finished with my homework, give me time to paint. If I get to school with my work done, teacher let me paint some more.

    I love nature. Nature is beautiful to me: the sky, water, evening charms. Trees is nature. Birds is nature. I painted them since I was a girl. Birds and trees is what best represent nature. I don't have to see it to paint it. I paint things I ain't seen except in pictures; mountains, snow, wonders of nature.

    I still get the same visions in my imagination like I had when I was a little girl. I get ready to paint me a picture, I know what going to be there. I look sometime at books to give me ideas about what colors to use. I was given a Van Gogh book for my birthday and, I can tell you, I got me good ideas on colors from that thing. I can get good ideas looking at a quilt hanging on a clothesline, and from old wood and old tin, sides of an old house.

    I never had much of a work career. Mostly cleaning up, janitorial work, taking care of old folks—stuff like that. I worked first at a laundry, spent a long time working in a Morrison's Cafeteria, gave that up and went to work at the University [of Florida]. Never cared for it. I mostly like to paint.

    I'm a quiet person. Painting keeps me in touch with myself and my memories. I do my painting mostly late at night after I get my other stuff over with. Art puts me into relaxation, and I do my best work like that. But I can tell you it ain't easy. Being an artist means having two full-time jobs.

    The above is taken from the interviews with Alyne Harris conducted by William S. Arnett in 1987 and 1997.

    Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art, Vol. 1

    Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art, Vol. 1

    The African American culture of the South has produced many of the twentieth century’s most innovative art forms. Widely appreciated for its music—from the blues and jazz, to gospel, soul, rock ‘n’ roll—the region has also played host to a less visible but equally important visual art tradition.