A Visit to Joe Minter’s Place

One thing I was really looking forward to the most on this trip was to visit Joe Minter’s folk art installation in Birmingham, which is his home, which is his life, which has been his life for decades. He has been making art ~ this evolving art of place and space ~ since the early 1990s. I visited the evening before my 17-day journey came to an end.

It is a stunning, living creation, an expression of the Holy which works through Joe Minter.

memorial to Hilda, Mister Joe’s wife of half a century, who died last September

Born in Selma, long-time resident of Birmingham, Joe Minter is 79 years old. His wife of 50 years died just this past September. Hilda Jo Patrick Minter. They were married on February 25, 1969. There is a tall, colorful memorial to her. With a crown. And her handbag.

Hilda’s handbag

I promised to bring her ~ and him ~ into my prayers. Which I have done and will continue to do.

He calls himself a messenger, and I believe it. He called the ground we walked together sacred, and I felt it. He has been called by 100 ancestors to bring a message and I felt their presence. In an interview with William Arnett, published on the Souls Grown Deep website, Joe Minter describes how he turned to art:

And it finally came back to me that the only way was through art, art is the universal thing. Make the art and put a message with it that could heal the wounds everywhere. Communicate to the world a message of God—love and peace for all. I then took on the name “Peacemaker.”

this is in the area he calls his workshop – it’s outside, in a carport kind of area

one of the outward facing installations along the residential road where Mister Joe presents his work to and for the world

I could not always follow Mister Joe’s utterances. He has much to say and it clearly makes sense to him, but my guess is that there is much lost on the path from mind to mouth, and then from his mouth to my ear. I listened intently but there is so much more that flows through him.

I followed him, and as much of his narrative as I could, as he took me through one section of the multi-spot sprawl of creation: found objects, paint, plants, corrugated tin sheeting, odd metal here & there, wood planks, plastic objects, cement blocks. I was in awe.

excerpt from Joe Minter’s book

He does not charge admission but it’s a good idea to buy a copy of his book.

More than just a good idea. The right thing to do.

Which I did.

Which he kindly inscribed.

One can spend hours, perhaps days, and see anew. I feel as if I went to the best “church” I’ve been to in awhile.

I was moved to tears. Not out of sadness but a sense of being cleansed.

He said he saw good in my heart. 💚

I pray it is so.

He was intent on raising his hands in this way for the photo. At the time, I was not sure why. Since then, a friend has suggested I might experience it as a benediction. I like that.

Joe Minter is the real deal, just as he is, just where he is.

And I will add, hopefully not to undermine that statement, that one of his pieces is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. One is held by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Joe Minter’s depiction of the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, where Bloody Sunday happened

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