Anton Haardt is a visual artist and writer, as well as a collector and dealer of work by self-taught artists. Born in 1948, she grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, and received her B.F.A. degree in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute.
"I thought that I would tell you a little about myself. My name is Anton Haardt. My uncle was H.L. Mencken, the well known Baltimore critic. My aunt was Sara Haardt, his wife and also a writer of southern fiction in the 1930's. My father's girlfriend was, in his youth, Zelda Fitzgerald. I was raised in a neighborhood developed by my father, a realtor. I lived on the corner of Anton Drive and Haardt Drive, and nevertheless, I was not sure where I belonged. I could not be still in my small southern town and abandoned my parent's hopes that I would become a debutante and marry a banker. Instead, I set off to explore life wanting to get as far away from the south as I could. I went to California and then on to the depths of the Amazon, Morrocco and faraway lands, and now reside part of the year in a jungle house in the Mexican fishing village of Yelapa. The rest of the year I live with my family in a 150 year old Italianate home in the New Orleans' Garden District around the corner from the writer Anne Rice. My home also "houses" my Folk Art Gallery, consisting of over 3,000 paintings by self-taught artists.
I am a visual artist but I have always had an interest in writing, keeping extensive journals of my travels during the last twenty years. I wrote my first manuscript, "The Black Palace of Lecumberri", in 1976 about my experiences of 2 years visiting a Mexican prison and helping my boyfriend, who was incarcerated there. He finally escaped after a horrifying eight hour journey through the prison's sewer pipes, which prompted my book. I've also written short stories and a few articles on folk artists. The most recent was an article on Mose Tolliver, excerpted from the book I have written on him. The article, "Mose Goes to Washington", was published in August 1995, in the British magazine, Raw Visions. This coming year, a short essay I wrote on Juanita Rogers, as well as my photographs of her, will be released in a major book on Folk Art by Atlanta collector, Bill Arnett: Souls Grown Deep - African Vernacular Art from the South."
During the early 1970's, Anton developed an ongoing interest in southern folk art after meeting self-taught painter Mose Tolliver, who lives near her family home in Montgomery.
In 1980 she opened Anton Haardt Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in Montgomery, where she has continued to show work by academically trained artists as well as traditional artists from Latin America and self-taught artists from the American South. Also in 1980 she met artist Juanita Rogers, whose work was then completely unknown to the public, and she supported and encouraged this otherwise extremely isolated artist until Rogers' death in 1985.
Currently she is working on a book about Rogers' life and art. In addition to her work on behalf of other artists, Haardt has created a large body of her own artwork in a variety of mediums, including painting, printmaking, collage, assemblage and photography. In recent years her photographic portraits of self-taught artists have been reproduced in a number of books, periodicals and exhibition catalogs. She has exhibited her work in New York, Paris, and Atlanta, in various . She had a n exhibit of her work at ther Montgomery Museum of Art and other galleries. She lives in New Orleans, where she maintains an annex of her gallery.
"I am an artist raised in the conservative South," Anton says, "and the owner of a folk art gallery specializing in self-taught artists from the Deep South. I have been interested in the phenomenon of folk art for over twenty-five years. I have over the years sold work to Museums across the country and in Europe, as well as to private collectors such as Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson, Malcom McDowell, James Belushi, Michael Stipe, and the House of Blues. Collecting folk art has reached frenzied popularity in the 1990's, demanding prices of up to $100,000 and prompting numerous exhibits, television specials and news articles.
For some time I have been working on a memoir of a relationship I had with one of these artists, a black woman by the name of Juanita Rogers. Over the time that I knew her, I promoted her work from anonmynity to placing her work in museums in Paris, London, and Lauzanne, Switzerland."
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