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Thursday, June 8th, 2023  

Tim Kerr

Self Taught

Published by Don Giovanni

Sep 29, 2021 Bookmark and Share

For those who don’t know him, Tim Kerr was at the forefront of the early ’80s DIY punk movement - Austin, Texas chapter. One of his earlier projects was as founder of Big Boys, but later act Bad Mutha Goose gravitated to more of funk-inflected sound. Aside from his musical endeavors, which continue today as Up Around the Sun, Kerr is also a painter and photographer. Though Kerr has a degree in both subjects, his art tends to favor a self taught or folk art style.

The subjects of many of Kerr’s paintings have been legendary Texas bluesmen such as Lightnin’ Hopkins or Mance Lipscomb. His paintings are full of vibrant colors, but also have a line drawn quality to impart facial features—a cross between fellow musician/artist Lamar Sorrento and punk era cartoonist Raymond Pettibon, if you will. Here in Self Taught though, Kerr literally turns his lens in tribute to 23 self taught artists. Specifically those who have created roadside installations, whether permanent or more subject to decay. If you are familiar with the Roadside America website or similar publications you will no doubt recognize a few of these.

The book includes a Kerr painting of each artist along with Polaroid and toy camera photographs of aspects of each artist’s creation. The best known of these would likely be Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden (known to many a music fan from early R.E.M. videos or The Talking Heads’ Little Creatures album art) or Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers. Lesser-known environments like Jeff McKissack’s Orange Show in Houston or Joe Minter’s African Village in America in Birmingham pay tribute to visionaries both dead and living. And Kerr’s book will help to preserve some of the more fragile environments that may not survive long past their creators.

If there is a minor quibble with the book, it is that the names and locations of the installations are saved for the back of the book, which requires some flipping back and forth to suss out what you are looking at. And aside from some well-researched quotes that Kerr incorporates into the paintings, there is no information provided on the profiled artists. But in fairness, this is a book to celebrate the creators of these spaces, the places themselves, and to showcase Kerr’s own art. In that, Self Taught succeeds, and clearly Kerr invested many road miles in capturing the photos that document what many will never have an opportunity to see. A loving tribute to those that are compelled to create for creations sake. Note: Signed copies of the book are currently up for pre-order at the Don Giovanni Records website. An upload card for one of Kerr’s Up Around the Sun albums is also included. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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