Collecting My Thoughts

Introducing Riverborne Art

Posted July 9, 2017

The Artist/Naturalist has held a place in Art History since the age of cave drawings. Think Ansel Adams, Beatrix Potter, John James Audubon and the like. And then there is contemporary self-taught Louisville, Kentucky artist MACK DRYDEN, for whom art and nature are a dual passion.

Mack’s love of nature began with his “Huck Fin childhood” on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He was always handy with tools and, growing up, was forever building what he describes as “practical stuff”– benches, shelving, tabled and chairs.

But when he discovered a trove of Ohio River driftwood just minutes from his back door, Mack’s inner artist emerged.

Today, the self-taught artist is busy transforming all manner of found driftwood into abstract sculptural works of art. A wish-bone shaped piece of wood, once part of a tree root system, reminded the artist of a fiddle and inspired a composition he calls Shindig.

Another composition took shape when the artist “ripped” an ordinary hunk of driftwood into pieces, revealing a chocolate brown interior. “Probably black walnut,” Mack says. The finished work: Black Walnut Chorale.

Mack has always had a special reverence for wood and readily admits that nature does some of his work for hem. But he’s also gifted with a keen sense of shape, color, patina and possibility. And it’s the possibilities that light him up.

“Working with driftwood is a mystery,” Mack says. “Where did a limb or a branch or a log
begin its journey? Where did it travel and for how many years? The artist can’t say for sure, but with every piece of wood he collects, every news creation, comes another lifetime.

Check out Mack’s gallery.

Larry John Palsson Goes Global

Posted March 29, 2016

For the past several years, J Compton Gallery has focused on bringing to light the amazing paintings of Seattle-born outsider artist Larry John Palsson (1948-2010).

We’ve shared Larry’s art and his story with followers online. We’ve staged exhibits from Forth Worth to Cedar Rapids to Santa Fe. And we’ve introduced his visionary and sophisticated geometric abstractions to equally sophisticated art lovers and collectors from Dallas to Los Angeles to New York City.

LP063JCG small (1)    Raw Vision 89 Cover

Now Larry’s story is going global, thanks to Raw Vision Magazine and its founder and editor John Maizels. The article on Larry was researched and written by the magazine’s esteemed New York-based Senior Editor Edward M. Gómez and appears in the April 2016 issue (vol. 89).  

British publication launched in 1989, Raw Vision is the only international publication whose entire content is devoted to outsider art. And there is a poetic justice in Larry’s story finding its way to the pages of Raw Vision. 


At the time of his death, he was an unknown artist with a secret portfolio — a secret shared by few — of hundreds of paintings, presumably his life’s work. Raw Visions Magazine is dedicated to the enigma, the unexpected, the iconoclast. And as their article suggests and his paintings confirm, Larry Palson was exactly that. His was a life filled with an outsider’s raw vision, a maverick’s raw wisdom and a self-taught artist’s raw talents and joy.

Read the Raw Vision article An Unexpected Modernist:


Read more about Raw Vision Magazine:

See Larry John Palsson’s paintings HERE and HERE.

LP178JCG Medium



Midwest Antique and Art Show

Posted February 22, 2015


Midwest Antique and Art Show & The Collector’s Eye: April 12th 10 am-4 pm @Hawkeye Downs Fair Grounds, 4400 6th Street SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Exquisite antique shell box, late 1800s.

Exquisite antique shell box, late 1800s.

1920s straw flapper hat trimmed with fabric florettes.

1920s straw flapper hat trimmed with fabric florettes.

Bringing an Outsider Artist Inside at the Outsider Art Fair

Posted December 17, 2014

From the moment a “picker” in Seattle, Washington, emailed me photos of paintings he’d found at a local house sale and asked me to represent them, I knew instantly this was something important.

For the past two years I’ve relied on a wide circuit of art and antiques shows; ads in art and antiques journals; and my online presence as J Compton Gallery to introduce the public to the paintings of self-taught visionary artist Larry John Palsson (1948-2010).

 Larry’s work is clearly driven by a deeply personal inner vision and deserves to be seen, just as his story deserves to be told. I don’t think he ever expected or intended to take his art public. He never framed it and, with one or two exceptions, it isn’t titled, dated or signed.

These were among the first of Larry's paintings to be framed.

These were among the first of Larry’s paintings to be framed.

After organizing, cataloging and framing the work, I’ve featured it at venues around the country: the Objects of Art Show Santa Fe, where it was a special “loaned” exhibit; at the 2014 LA Art Show; The Fort Worth Show of Antiques & Art; and The Tower Show in Dallas.







Packing Larry's work that to be exhibited at the 2013 Objects of Art Show Santa Fe.

Packing Larry’s work that to be exhibited at the 2013 Objects of Art Show Santa Fe.

 In January of 2015, I’m proud to be taking Larry’s paintings to New York for the very first time as part of the annual Outsider Art Fair in New York City.

Introducing Larry's paintings at The Fort Worth Show of Antiques and Art.

Introducing Larry’s paintings at The Fort Worth Show of Antiques and Art.

Wherever the paintings are shown, people are drawn to their freshness and originality. They’re astonished by the artist’s use of color and shape and his meticulous brushwork. “Are these cut paper?” someone asked. But what they most respond to and remark on is Larry Palsson’s creative vision.

Larry’s personal story is as compelling as his art. The only child of John and Marjorie Palsson, Larry was born in Seattle where his father and several uncles had emigrated from their native Iceland. John passed away when Larry was almost 16.

Larry loved geometry and was eager to become an engineer. But he had some form of autism, from what we know, that made it impossible for him to hold a job. He lived with his mother nearly all of his life and, at some point along the way, he taught himself to paint. He died at age 62. A year later, the home he’d lived in was readied for sale and only then were his paintings discovered.

 Geometric study: concentric semicircles. Acrylic on art board. Unfinished painting on verso. 14.5" x 11.25

Geometric study: concentric semicircles. Acrylic on art board. Unfinished painting on verso. 14.5″ x 11.25


Find out more about Larry John Palsson and his art here and here. And here.

2015 Outsider Art Fair NYC

Posted December 16, 2014

J Compton Gallery is pleased to feature the paintings of self-taught visionary artist Larry John Palsson (1948-2010) at the Outsider Art Fair NYC. Visit us in Booth 403.

orb in variagated pinks and greens creatins three dimensional effect

January 29th-February 1st @ Center 548, 548 West 22nd Street, New York City, NY 10011.
Thursday: Early Access 3-6pm Vernissage 6-9pm
Friday:     11am-8pm
Saturday: 11am-8pm
Sunday:   11am-6pm



palsson perspective geometric study circle anvil line

Poet with a Paint Brush

Posted March 6, 2014

I met Terry McCullough near the beginning of his creative journey when our paths crossed at the Bloom Agency in Dallas. I was a young copywriter. He was a layout artist. Decades later, I buy and sell art. Terry makes art. But then, he always has. 

Early on, Terry’s dad, a hand-set printer, and his mom, who did custom gift-wrapping, nurtured his creativity. “Mom had an awesome story book called Yama Yama Land that really inspired me,” Terry says. 

A story book belonging to his mom helped inspire his love of art.

A story book belonging to his mom helped inspire his love of art.

That was just the beginning of a life-long creative journey. 

Terry, age seven.

Terry, age seven.

While working at Bloom, Terry began exploring black and white photography.

In 1977 – before the era of personal computing and digital software – he was producing multi-negative prints. Not only did that portfolio win him a coveted place at the Visual Studies Workshop in New York, it led to his first one-man show.

From still photography, Terry made the leap to film. And within that exciting arena, the poet in him began playing, not only with imagery, but also with language, motion, lighting and sound. Film allowed him to put his creative stamp on an entire process and project.

In this example Terry used four different negatives to create the image.

In this example Terry used four different negatives to create the image.

In his thirty years of filmmaking, travelling from one global locations to another, Terry took his “kids” – his prized collection of Nikons along with him — amassing a vast library of black and white infrared negatives, many of which he printed using the classic silver gelatin process.

On location in East Java Indonesia directing a corporate film, 1994.

On location in East Java Indonesia directing a corporate film, 1994.

While producing realistic images for the screen, Terry started to explore the world of abstract art. Ever curious and always inventive, Terry discovered encaustic — an ancient painting technique using molten bee’s wax mixed with oil, pigment or resin. He loved the result– a textural complexity that couldn’t be achieved with paint alone.

A 2012 commissioned painting for a client's office.  Oil on canvas. 30 " X 30".

A 2012 commissioned painting for a client’s office. Mixed-media– oil on canvas, encaustic, painted slate. 30″ X 30″.

Today, Terry’s abstract expressionist paintings are as richly layered as his own experience in the visual arts. Not only are his canvases and mixed media pieces featured in solo and group shows, they have captured the attention of individual and corporate collectors. We’re pleased to welcome this poet with a paintbrush to J Compton Gallery.

Texas native and contemporary abstract artist Terry McCullough (b. 1951-) lives and works in Reilly Springs, Texas.

Texas native and contemporary abstract artist Terry McCullough (b. 1951-) lives and works in Reilly Springs, Texas.

 See Terry’s art for sale here.


The Paintings of Larry John Palsson

Posted February 4, 2014

 In the fall of 2011, at a house sale in a modest Seattle neighborhood, a local picker combing through mountains of seemingly ordinary household stuff made an astonishing discovery. There, among stacks of sci-fi paperbacks, engineering trade journals and electronic paraphernalia was a collection of box after box of paintings, sketches and mobiles – hundreds of pieces in all.

Larry John Palsson in his later teens or early 20s.

Larry John Palsson in his later teens or early 20s.

The art was the work of a man who saw life and art through a different lens, self-taught visionary artist Larry John Palsson (1948-2010), the home’s only remaining occupant who had passed away the previous November. After high school Larry had aspired to be an engineer. But he was unable to hold a job because of an unspecified medical condition — possibly a form of autism based on what we know.

Larry, with his mother Marjorie Palsson in 2002, visiting the gravesite of his father.

Larry, with his mother Marjorie Palsson in 2002, visiting the gravesite of his father.

An only child, Larry was just 15 when his father passed away. He lived with his widowed mother his entire life. What little we know about Larry comes from neighbors, a Palsson cousin and a single spiral-bound notebook found with his art. We’re told he was forever buying rosebushes that he never got around to planting. Everyday tasks could send him into a panic. He kept to himself and neighbors saw him as a “harmless recluse.”

Stylized mountains. Acrylic on paper. 8" X11-1/2".

Stylized mountains. Acrylic on paper. 8″ X11-1/2″.

Somewhere along the way, Larry taught himself to paint, creating a trove of hundred of paintings that are, in turn, playful, provocative, elegant, mysterious and mind-blowingly inventive. His conceptual ideas and design ability are fresh and compelling, and when Larry is at his best, the brushwork is extraordinary.

As with many self-taught artists, Larry painted on found material — from cereal boxes and advertising brochures to particleboard panels and Masonite.

Many of Larry's paintings were done on cardboard from a variety of household products.

Many of Larry’s paintings were done on cardboard from a variety of household products.
























This whimsical painting was done on the Shredded Wheat box pictured above.

This whimsical painting was done on the Shredded Wheat box pictured above.

There are no records that document Larry’s creative journey – exactly when or why he started painting, no diary entries of discoveries and breakthroughs. But we can learn a great deal about the man and the artist from the paintings themselves. They were never framed; never seen by anyone other than family and friends; and, with one or two exceptions, never titled, signed or dated.

Larry's passion for engineering and geometry clearly inspired his visionary work.

Larry’s passion for engineering and geometry clearly inspired his visionary work.

Larry John Palsson is one of those individuals whose brain was uniquely wired and whose creative abilities were driven by a deeply personal inner vision. J Compton Gallery is pleased to represent this exciting discovery.

Dynamic shield motis. Acrylic on paper. 10-1/4" X 12". Untitled, undated, unsigned.

Dynamic shield motis. Acrylic on paper. 10-1/4″ X 12″. Untitled, undated, unsigned.

For more about Larry and his work, click here

To see paintings now offered for sale, click here.


Introducing Larry’s Work at the 2014 LA Art Show

Posted February 3, 2014

Now in its 18th year, the LA Art Show is known for exhibiting exciting work from around the globe and from one end of the art spectrum to another.

The 2014 show (January 15th-19th) didn’t disappoint, offering a broad spectrum, indeed: Contemporary bronzes by China’s Wang Dong Lai; master works by Marc Chagall; rarely-seen photography by Andy Warhol; progressive/contemporary art from Korea; and the paintings of a virtually unknown self-taught visionary artist from Seattle, Washington — Larry John Palsson (1948-2010).

A visitor studies the work of .Larry John Palsson

A visitor studies the work of .Larry John Palsson









In the year that I’ve represented Larry’s work, I’ve installed gallery-style exhibitions in conjunction with the Fort Worth Show of Antiques and Art and the Objects of Art Santa Fe Show. But as a first-time exhibitor at the LA Art Show — and the only gallery to represent the work of an outsider artist — I was able to introduce Larry’s work to its widest audience yet. And I couldn’t be more pleased with the response.

Visitors discussing the paintings of Larry Palsson

Visitors discussing the paintings of Larry Palsson

Visitors were astonished by the artist’s sense of color and brushwork so precise that the paintings were sometimes mistaken for cut paper collage. One of the most consistent reactions was sheer amazement at the level of sophistication from an artist who was completely self-taught.

Sharing Larry's story as well as his art.

Sharing Larry’s story as well as his art.

 Along with the paintings, we included Larry’s personal story, complete with snapshots of the artist as well as some of his quirky and even profound writings from the only notebook to survive him. The passage below appears just as Larry wrote it:

The public won’t bother to
come to art museums and galleries
by the thousands like sports games
Not enough excitement. Not
enough interest

But every year the 2013 LA Art Show some 50,000 people, enough to fill a stadium. And I can assure Larry that in booth 1302 there was plenty of excitement, plenty of interest in his personal story his visionary art.

Self-taught and virtually unknown, Larry John Palsson was a topic of serious interest.

Self-taught and virtually unknown, Larry John Palsson was a topic of serious interest.


For more about Larry John Palsson click here

To see paintings now offered for sale, click here.



What We Hold On To

Posted January 6, 2013

Some years ago, over dinner at the home of friends, I met a woman named Pat. She arrived with a friend and, with his help, walked slowly, aided by crutches under each arm. Had she been in an accident? As we began chatting, I asked her that very question.

Pat shook her head. She was recovering from bone cancer, she told me, after undergoing a bone marrow transplant. “If they can find a good match,” she explained, “they basically nuke your bone marrow and drain it out. And if that doesn’t kill you, you have a chance.”

That evening I learned that Pat had a home just a few streets from mine but had moved back home with her mom while she recovered. When I told Par that I was an antiques and folk art dealer, she brightened and said, “I have a house full of folk art, and I’m having a huge sale a few weeks from now to help cover my medical expenses. You should come.”

So I did. The morning of the sale eager buyers formed a line from Pat’s doorstep to more than halfway down the block. She sat on the porch, smiling and greeting friend and strangers alike as we filed through the front door into the treasure trove that was Pat’s home. Room after room was filled with handcrafted boxes, baskets, pottery and jugs, paintings, carvings, tramp art, folk art — all the things I love and collect — from folk-y to funky to fine.

Miniature folk art chairs from Pat’s collection

Among the pieces I chose that day were two miniature folk art chairs, which I still treasure. By the time I left, the crowd had thinned but Pat was still sitting on the porch, crutches nearby. I stopped to tell her what a treat it was to see her collection — and couldn’t help but say, “Isn’t it hard, though, to part with all your wonderful things?” Her eyes sparkled as she leaned forward and chortled, “You should see what’s stashed upstairs — all the stuff I held back for myself!”

I’m sorry to say that I don’t know what happened to Pat after that, as I soon moved away. But I always seem to think of her as one year ends and another begins.

Pat’s chairs with a World War I Soldier Bear and a Tracy Gallup Man in the Moon doll.

And I remember what she taught me. No matter what happens in our life, we all get to choose what we hold on to … and what we let go.


My Own “Toy Story”

Posted December 7, 2011

Matching perms! Corpus Christi TX 1952

Wheels for Christmas 1950 Charleston SC

Wheels for Christmas 1950 Charleston SC

Remember the scene in the original “Toy Story” movie where the family car and the moving van pull away from the house, leaving a handful of toys behind?

It’s a scene right out of my childhood. In the movie, of course, the toys that get left are eventually reunited with their owner.

First Grade, Naval Air Station Guam 1952

My case was a little different. My dad was in the Navy, so we made lots of moves (I attended 11 public schools in 12 years).
 With every transfer, the Navy provided a moving allowance for our belongings.  And if we exceeded that allowance, the difference came out of the family budget. So, moving meant weeding out … having to choose.

Jean’s childhood dolls

And what I always chose first were my books, a cherished doll or two, and the occasional school project or award. To this day, I still have my childhood copies of “ The Secret Garden,” “Little Women,” and a handful of Trixie Belden mysteries. I also kept three prize-winning photos I took in junior high. And three dolls: a 1950s Madame Alexander Cissette; 1950s Littlest Angel; and the Raggedy Ann I wrote about in “Providence.”

A dozen years ago I started my antiques business after purchasing several collections of early Steiff animals. To this day, antique toys are an important part of my business. Like the early Bliss toy highchair I recently acquired, along with a J&E Stevens toy cast iron dresser, a pair of antique bell toys, a late 19th c. rag doll from Vermont,  a handcrafted miniature sideboard and more.

Bliss doll highchair lithography detail Stephens cast iron dresser heart motif Two early bell toys

I come across a toy with a date, a name, a place, a maker — something that anchors it in time, like David’s Doll, Helen May Neumeyer’s miniature table, Christmas 1886, and Charlotte’s Bear “Pierre,” pictured in this 1920s photo with Charlotte’s father  (also named Pierre), who gave her the bear.

Charlotte and Pierre

Charlotte and Pierre

I don’t always know the origin of every toy I find. But I do know this: Eventually every toy finds its way home. And every toy has a story.

Pierre sitting



Carnival in Trinidad, 1977

Posted March 18, 2011

Trinidad carnival parade float

One of the best, most memorable vacations my mother ever had was in 1977 when     she went to Trinidad for Carnival. Her boss at the time had been to Trinidad a few years earlier to recruit employees for an oil refinery on St. Croix. One of the people he hired was a man named Vernon, a native Trinidadian. They remained friends, and Vernon was kind enough to arrange the details of mother’s visit. She stayed with his sister Vera and her family in the capital city of Port-of-Spain, which has celebrated Carnival since the late 1700s.

Fresh Coconut in Trinidad

With Vera and Vernon as her self-appointed guides, Mom experienced Carnival, not as a visitor from the States,” but as Islanders do.    

There were daily visits to  family and friends where the mood was festive and the reception gracious. “Eat, drink,” the urged mom, as they passed around platters of food and served up rum and coconut milk punch in hollowed-out coconut shells. They took her to dinner at the famous “Up-Side-Down Hotel”; sat on bleachers watching parades by day, eating picnic lunches they brought from home; and by night they joined revelers following the parading masquerades through the streets and cheering their favorite bands.


Mom and a crowd of boys

Early in the visit, Vera and her family took mom to an open-air market to buy meat from the local butcher Pierre. Mom is a friendly, outgoing sort, so when she was introduced to the butcher, she reached out to shake his brawny hand — which he quickly wiped before grasping hers. Somehow that simple gesture meant something to her hosts. And wherever they went, whenever they introduced Mom to a new group of friends, they made note of the fact that “Margaret shook hands with Pierre.”

Vintage carnival noisemaker




A few years ago, I came across a vintage hand-made noisemaker, the kind that’s seen in Carnival and Mardi Gras celebrations around the world. This one (pictured here) is European and could be from Spain or Portugal or even Trinidad or Brazil, given their cultural cross-pollination.  



As I was adding the noisemaker to the Curious Objects Gallery, I thought of mom’s Carnival adventure: the island city, the food, the calypso music, the steel bands, the pageantry, and most of all, the hospitality that so completely surrounded her she was, for a time, Trinidadian.

Buddies (#1)

Posted June 18, 2009

One of the most exciting things about the buying end of this business is finding a piece with great eye appeal (be it form, surface, originality, etc.), only to discover there’s more to it than meets the eye. Something that adds an unexpected dimension and makes it more unique and intriguing than I ever imagined.

The same thing’s true of people. You meet someone you find likable and interesting and then discover something so unexpected about him, it blows your mind.

That’s how it happened with my buddy Kevin Gordon. I was at FolkFest in Atlanta in 2004, happily browsing and shopping, when I wandered into the booth of a pale, kind of studious-looking guy with squarish black-rimmed glasses and a shock of dark hair. (Think Buddy Holly-meets-young-Elvis Costello).

It was Kevin, the unassuming proprietor of an excellent on-line source for self-taught and outsider art. At that particular show, he displayed a number of pieces by Willie Massey, and I flipped over a three-piece set of carved, unpainted miniature furniture. I didn’t buy them, but I couldn’t stop thinking about them. So, a week or so later, I contacted Keven through his website, chatted a while, struck a deal, and made a buddy.

He’s married with kids; I’m married with dogs. He’s got a mom the next town over from mine. He’s quirky; I like quirky. We share a passion for African American quilts. You know how friendships unfold. A year into that friendship I discovered “something more.”


Kevin Gordon

Turns out Kevin’s not only a go-to guy for great folk art, he’s a Nashville-based singer-songwriter-guitarist with four albums tohis credit; a song (Flowers) on Irma Thomas’s 2006 Grammy-winning album; a rapidly growing fan base including other musicians who’ve recorded his songs; and a steady schedule of festival and club dates all over the country.  (I know. I should’ve paid more attention to the Holly-Costello vibe.) When I played his album O, Come Look at the Burning, it was like– Wow! Behind that low-key facade is a heart that rocks.

Now, if the name Kevin Gordon hasn’t yet hit your radar screen, you can google him, of course. Or visit our links page and follow the link to Gordon Gallery. Or, if  you live near Santa Cruz, the Bay area or Portland, Oregon, you can catch him on stage in the next few weeks at one of the following venues. Check him out. And discover, as I did, that incredible “something more.”

comelookattheburning1Santa Cruz Area
June 19  Brookdale Inn, 9pm, Brookdale, CA
June 23  Crepe Place, 8pm, Santa Cruz

Bay Area
June 21  Ace Ciderhouse, 8pm, Sebastopol
June 26  Tucker Farm Center, 8pm, Calistoga
June 27  The Music Store, 2pm; Plough & Stars, 8pm, San Francisco

Portland Area
July 4  Waterfront Blues Festival, 6pm
July 5  Laurelthirst Public House, 8pm
July 6  Sellerwood Riverfront Park, 6pm


Posted May 14, 2009

When people see me at antique and folk art shows – and see the display of old rag dolls — they often ask about my personal collection. I’m not sure they believe me when I say I made it all the way to 50 owning just four dolls: a “Tiny Tears,” an Aranbee “Littlest Angel,” and a Madame Alexander “Cissette” – store-bought dolls that Santa Claus brought for Christmas. Read the rest of this post »