A visionary folk artist, Danny Doughty's paintings stretch the boundaries of realism in his mastery of color, texture, and pattern. Growing up on the Eastern Shore, his works have a rich, abstract quality that tell his remarkable story.
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- On Eastern Shore you were expected
to be a farmer or a fisherman.
God forbid you were a boy and wanna be a artist.
My father was a tyrant.
He work seven days and nights a week
and if you didn't, you were worthless.
I wanted hope and love and a world I knew I'd never have
and it affected me greatly.
As a little boy I realized I'm not gonna have the life
I would love to have, so maybe I can create it.
That's pretty much, it's like escapism.
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- Danny grew up in the life of the water on the seaside
of the Eastern Shore of Virginia,
and he made art from when he was a child.
When you talk to Danny,
he will carry you right back to his childhood
and the ways in which he used art
to negotiate a number of challenges in his life.
- How are you?
- I am so good.
I'm so glad you finally were able to come
to see all your stuff.
- Oh, thank you.
- Come on in. - It's a long time.
- There she is.
- Oh my God, that is like...
She epitomizes that amazing way with children,
it's sitting there with the American flag
draped across her lap.
I can see her sitting on the front porch
of one of the houses I would be pulling
up to with my dad peddling fish.
- I really think of Danny Doughty as something
of a history painter.
Folks will call him a folk artist,
store or self-taught artist or all these other things.
But the labels don't really work.
What he seeks to do is to represent
and dignify a world that has gone by
- One of my favorite parts about this picture
is just the way the light hits that flag.
And then the pleats in her dress
are just so crisp down there.
- For me it's the only thing that comes natural to me,
everything else is a struggle for me.
But this is just like I absolutely detach from reality
and I am in that moment.
There's a very spiritual time when I create pieces
like this that are the full circle of life.
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This is Shepherd's Plain on just the south side
of Pungoteague on the Eastern Shore.
It was an originally a 500 acre plantation on Nandua Creek.
I was asked to do a rendering of it in my style of work.
As I did it, I fell in love with it.
And it just has so many elements of what I do
because it's showing you life in real time at that period.
I Just think it's one of the best balances
of some pieces I've done.
If I had not lived the life that I had to lead
and not had these women give me what I needed to make it,
I couldn't have brought that to this piece.
- The figures in his paintings
who are African-American women
are those individuals who really stood by him,
who helped him through extraordinarily difficult moments
in his life.
So he chooses to celebrate them.
- Early on I did all of my work with faces.
It got to a point where it was so painful
to put the smiling face on a person
that has been so oppressed, so poor.
I just couldn't do it anymore.
So when people say, why are they faceless?
Because to society, they had no voice.
This could be Ms. Anna, Ms. Bessie,
your grandmother or someone you know
that had never had a voice, they were never validated.
I don't include men in my artwork.
I ran from men that I had to grow up around
because of the abuse I suffered and it was so brutal,
they took everything from me.
I learned in real time the power, the brilliance,
the most spiritual energy and divine light
that come from these women.
They give me something fundamental
when no one of my own people could give me.
They did it, they did it so effortlessly
and it was a absolute game changer for me
through my work, through my life.
- Well, the finished piece is the first place
we take guests that visit,
is we march them right up the steps and we say,
look at our Danny over here.
- And then It tells a story on its own.
We are so thankful.
- Danny has arrived at a style which combines
a real sense of motion.
You look at his paintings and they are dynamic
even as they express a kind of inner stillness.
And the colors he uses come across as a bright palette.
But in fact, it's a very somber kind of brightness
that those colors that stand out so vividly
also carry with them a kind of stillness,
a sense of memory, a kind of location
in a past imagined world.
- When we're all together we're our best.
We're so much more alike than we are different.
Most people's crazy is my normal.
The worst things in my life,
it brought me the greatest gifts
and that's where you melody and all those things come in
and you can't fake it.
You have to actually live it for it to be real.
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