On My Way: The Arts of Sarah Albritton
by Susan Roach


Ordering information

On My Way: The Arts of Sarah Albritton
By Susan Roach

Paperback - 96 pages, 11" by 8.5". Published December 1998. Louisiana Tech University; distributed by University Press of Mississippi. ISBN: 1578061148.

Our Review

This well-written and attractive book puts in historical and social perspective the work of Sarah Albritton and the 47 paintings which made up her touring exhibition of the same name.

The book is essentially divided into two parts. The first, about 35 pages, is a detailed, and very interesting, biography. The second part, color photos of her paintings together with accompanying reminiscences of the artist. The first part sets the stage, and the second shows the work and conveys the feelings behind it.

The short and readable foreword by John Michael Vlach first places Albritton's work in very general historical terms, and then begins to relate them to Sarah.

The biographical portion is written by Susan Roach. To get an idea of its scope, following is some of what is included. A personal history of Roach and her approach to the book; historical and geographical contexts of Albritton and her work; biographical context which includes Albritton's physical work and jobs, her marriage and family; folklife presentations; her business (Sarah's Kitchen); and her yard art. Painting and verbal contexts reveal another side of Albritton, which deepens even more with her autobiographical prose and poetry. Finally, Roach discusses some of the writings and expressions of Albritton and the media in which she works.

The second portion of the book consists of about 60 pages of mostly color photos of the paintings in the show. Putting these into perspective are the personal narratives which accompany each work. It is in this section which one actually must look at the photos to see and feel her work. We recommend the book. It should be an interesting excursion, and worth coming back to view several times.

Publisher Writeup

While many other self-trained women artists celebrate the glories of the past, there is a stark reality to Sarah Albritton's work. In her paintings in the book On My Way: The Arts of Sarah Albritton her people are still plowing in the near dark of evening. Her happy children are fishing for crayfish in polluted streams. There are angels and lightning in her skies.

And when she writes narratives to accompany her paintings, the tales are direct but never maudlin--"I was born in hell," she says. "I grew up in hell." As an African-American woman growing up in north Louisiana in the 1930s and 1940s, Albritton managed to take care of herself in her own way. On her journey away from the pain of poverty, abuse, and racism she experienced, Albritton has expressed herself in a variety of artistic modes: food preparation, restaurant decor, yard art, Christmas decorations, autobiographical prose and poetry, and most recently narrative combined with paintings.

On My Way, a collection of her first touring exhibition, includes forty-seven paintings in full color accompanied by Albritton's stories as transcribed by folklorist Susan Roach. Despite the darkness of some of these paintings, there is a perseverance running through On My Way.

The colors here, often grays, browns, and muted greens, rise and converge as do many of her images of people flying to freedom or walking trails. As John Michael Vlach says in his foreword, " The essential point to be taken here is that Albritton's confidence and her will to survive may owe much to the examples of courage and endurance widely available in the African- American Community from elders who had known the days of slavery."

Susan Roach, folklorist and professor of English, writes an introduction that merges Albritton's biography with the many arts she practices. Peter Jones, artist and professor of art at Louisiana Tech University, gives us the national context of Albritton's work and traces her development as a practicing creator.

Sarah Albritton is a Ruston, Louisiana restauranteur and owner of Sarah's Kitchen. Born in Arcadia in 1936, she has devoted much of her life to the culinary arts and has conducted cooking demonstrations for the Louisiana World Exposition, and the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife.

By Susan Roach. Louisiana Tech University; distributed by University Press of Mississippi. Paperback - 96 pages, 11" by 8.5". Published December 1998. ISBN: 1578061148.

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