Judith Ann Moriarty

A Prophet & A Ford

By - Mar 5th, 2010 04:00 am
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Personal portrait of Milwaukee photographer Francis Ford, taken by Troy Freund. This photograph will be one of the items up for auction at the benefit event.

Portrait of Francis Ford by Troy Freund. This photograph will be one of the items up for auction at the benefit.

Photographer Francis Ford, former Art Muscle writer Judith Ann Moriarty and the late Prophet Blackmon have what in common? Did you say, “art?”

Prophet William Blackmon died in early February. Was he our town’s only Prophet, well likely not, but he was most certainly the most colorful and artistic. I first met him during an exhibition of his work at Kent Mueller’s Metropolitan Gallery in the Third Ward. Prophet was hot back in the late ’80s, a newly discovered darling of the “outsider” art world, that strange and wonderful land where the self-taught gathered to celebrate their various eccentricities. Outsider art has pretty much morphed into “insider outsider,” primarily because wannabe outsiders jumped on the bandwagon and tried to attach their wagons to the real McCoy. Prophet was the real McCoy. There were others around town, but he alone had a kind of  P.T. Barnum persona.

On that night in the Way Back, there stood Prophet in the main gallery of Mueller’s wildly popular venue. “Come here,” he rasped (his voice like a load of gravel). “I see you have a problem with your back.”

Gee whiz, my back felt fine and I was having a great time drinking wine and looking at two rooms of Blackmon’s oddly fascinating visions brought to life with colorful paint on scraps of board. Prophet wasn’t about to be denied, so I approached him, my back still feeling fine. Next to the man stood two large women he defined as his “Sisters.” Helpers to the Prophet, I guess; handmaidens to keep us all from sinking into Hell. Gowned in flowing dresses, their heads wrapped in glaring white turbans, they were, uh, a bit frightening.

Anyway, I declined to have Prophet place his healing hands on my back, but before evening’s end, I had purchased one of his paintings. Now and then, I see his work around town, and was reminded when I learned of his death that Art Muscle Magazine did a cover image of him in 1990.

Prophet William Blackmon. Photograph by Francis Ford.

Prophet William Blackmon. Photograph by Francis Ford.

That particular photograph was taken by Francis Ford. I’ve included another Francis Ford image of Prophet Blackmon with this modest remembering. It’s one of Ford’s favorites of the chap who, weather permitting, could be seen around town preaching on street corners. Brady Street and Farwell? I’m sure I saw him standing there two years ago, spreading the word.

There’s more to this tale which seems to have come full-circle. On Saturday, a benefit will be held to honor Francis Ford and help him heal from his recent heart surgery. The event will include an impressive silent auction of various items  contributed by local artists and others who have long respected Ford’s contributions to our art community. It all takes place at Steny’s Tavern, located at 800 S. Second St. The Walker’s Point crowd is mostly scattered now, but many will be coming back to where we frequently tipped a few. Join us in this feast of good will. It’s food for the soul.

I think the late Prophet would approve.

The benefit for Francis Ford is this Saturday, March 6, 2-7 p.m., at Steny’s Tavern, located at 800 S. Second St. For more information call 414-672-7139.

Categories: A/C Feature 3, Art

0 thoughts on “A Prophet & A Ford”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Judith, this is a wonderful article. Ive always liked Prophet Blckmon and Francis Ford’s work. A very touching story.

  2. Anonymous says:

    correction: Metropolitan Gallery was on south fifth street in Walker’s Point, not the Third Ward. Later on, Mueller ran KMArt in a building right on the dividing line twixt the Third & Fourth Wards. So many memories….and Francis is always part of them.

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