On a street corner in bustling Montgomery, Alabama in 1939, a homeless man in his 80s sat every day, painting and drawing. Born into slavery, Bill Traylor had moved to the city with little means and in ill health after 60 years of farm labor. On discarded cardboard, he created over 1,000 scenes from his plantation and farming days, and also the urban life he observed. His images of mostly people and animals are at once playful and political, vibrant and mysterious. Traylor, who died in 1949, would not live to see the scale of his unlikely success: acquisitions by the High Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center, and MoMA; and exhibits featuring his work at the Corcoran Gallery, Studio Museum in Harlem, the American Folk Art Museum, David Zwirner Gallery, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, where in 2019 his was the first major retrospective by an artist born into slavery. Through interviews with family members, artists, curators and critics, inventively interspersed with dramatic readings, dance, and original music, BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS reveals Traylor's unmatched gift for translating oral culture into a powerful and wholly original visual medium, and provides a window into the life of a remarkable self-taught artist and the massive social and cultural changes to which his work testifies.

  • 1 hr 15 minNR
  • Apr 16, 2021
  • Documentary

Cast & Crew

  • Jeffrey WolfDirector

  • Jeffrey WolfProducer

  • Daphne McWilliamsProducer

  • Jeany Nisenholz-WolfProducer

  • Fred BarronWriter