Born West Africa, c. 1925; died Madison, Wisconsin, 2000
Simon Sparrow spent his first two years among the Yoruba in West Africa and the next decade on a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina. His travels as an adult are somewhat obscure, but he lived some years in Philadelphia and later in New York, working as a house painter, singer, and cook. Sometime after 1968 he moved with his wife and children to Madison, Wisconsin, and lived there for the rest of his life.
Sparrow began painting in the 1960s, but it was not until the mid-1980’s that he began to create the grand scale and complex assemblages for which he is best known. For Sparrow, faces and figures in his compositions depict spirits, essences of people who lived long ago and images that came to him from God. Sparrow showed his works in public spaces in Madison and preached to people about their spiritual messages, thus allowing his assemblages to reach the art world’s notice.
Learn more about Sparrow and the 26 other artists in “Great and Mighty Things”: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection