Joe Cumbee’s “Black Horse, White Horse,” circa 1972.nof folk art paperbacks. We picked up anfew points here and there, but evennwithout this continuing education,nwe’d have stopped. In our travels in thengreater realm of turnip truckdom, we’dnnever run away from a folk art exhibit,nand weren’t about to start now. Whichnbrings us to Clayton, Georgia, and lastnsummer.nWe’d just spent a week in the BluenRidge Mountains and after enjoying a ‘^nleisurely, white-knuckled, seven-hourndrive along the parkway, we were fortunatenenough to arrive in Clayton.nFortunate just to arrive anywhere, actually.nAnd where did we find ourselvesnbut in the midst of a month-long folknart exhibit spread out over three galleries.nBefore dark we reached the first ofnthese and met a genial Atlanta artndealer, who sold us a crude little paintingndone by the daughter of a famousnFlorida “root carver.” Just four slabs ofnwhite paint with pink blobs for heads,nyellow smudged halos, and somenChristmas tree-like decorations for thenborders, this little icon hangs in ournliving room now. And small world.nPaying with a check we discovered thatnthe dealer’s ninety-six-year-old grandmothernhad been born and raised at thenlighthouse just oE from our home andnhad been very close to my wife’s family.nSurely a good omen. We took heartnand checked into the Clayton Hotel. Innthe morning we’d visit the other galleriesnto see the “Firisters.”nFinster, of course, is Howard Finster,ncertainly the most famous folknartist alive. A former north Georgianevangelist, he has painted album coversnfor a rock group and taken commissionsnfrom the Coca-Cola Company.nA Finster recently sold sight unseen forn48/CHRONICLESntwenty-five thousand dollars. Hendoesn’t do it for the money though (henreally doesn’t). He paints to spreadnGod’s word, and every painting isnpacked with the north Georgia equivalentnof John Bunyan imagery and oftennlengthy hand-lettered morals, admonitions,nand Scripture.nThe next morning we were waitingnwhen the Main Street Gallery opened.nNo Finsters in immediate sight, but thenwindow was filled with the whimsicalnwork of A.E. Miller. Painted on sheetnmetal, these showed Indians fightingndinosaurs and other such oddities.nWhat’s more, unlike the few Finstersninside, these were affordable. At leastnthey, would have been, except thenproprietor told us they were hordingnMillers in Atlanta so they’d decidednnot to sell theirs. I asked her what thendifference was between hording in Atlantanand not selling in Clayton? Shensaid if it was up to her we could havenone but her partners said no.nThe last gallery was several miles outnof town on the grounds of an artists’nand writers’ retreat. Here we were tonfind the bulk of the. Finsters and couldnprobably get a Miller sold to us. Maybe.nThe grounds were covered withncurious Miller whirly-gigs — dinosaurnweather vanes with propellers—butnthe gallery was closed. I wanderednaround back and into a second floornmusic room where a man sat at a desknwriting. He kindly offered to let us in.nWalking back I asked if he was anmusician, and he said he was a philosophernfrom a university in Virginia.nHe’d been writing philosophy. I toldnhim I’d just spent the week in thenmountains with my friend Jack. Jacknwas also a philosopher but he hadn’tnnnwritten any in at least twenty years. Innfact, he rarely mentioned philosophy.nThe Virginia philosopher asked menwhat Jack said when he did mention it,nand I told him that once Jack had said,n”Under certain circumstances anyonenis capable of killing his wife.” ThenVirginia philosopher thought aboutnthis a good thirty seconds and thennagreed. He said, “He’s right. Underncertain circumstances anyone is capablenof killing anyone else.”nNow, I’m not including this bit ofnconversation to suggest the sad permissivenessnto which Southern philosophynstudies have sunk. Nor am I includingnit because it gave my wife (overhearingnit from the far side of the still lockedndoor) a few curious if not downrightnanxious moments. I’m including it becausenthis was all it took to distract menfrom the fact that we’d enterednthrough the back door and just walkednthrough the entire exhibit. The artnwasn’t commanding our attention. Itnwasn’t jumping off the wall screamingn”admire me” or “buy me” or anythingnelse.nWe let my wife in, and though Incould tell the Virginia philosophernwasn’t a fan, he was good-naturednenough to hang around while wenbrowsed. Howard Finster predominated,nGod’s words made flesh, so tonspeak. Familiar. I’d managed to visit annearly Gothic cathedral once, and thenenthusiasm of its earlier paintings andnstained glass didn’t seem so far removednfrom what the Georgia evangelistnwas attempting. Indeed, the angular,none-dimensional disciples andnsaints could even pass as distant cousins.nStill, architecture aside, the cathedralnart was so much more compellingn— the promises so much more promising—nthat you wondered if the messagenwas the same. No matter hownclever and joyous the work of HowardnFinster is (and it’s both), the idea that anglimpse of Elvis and a Coca-Cola arenamong theprimary rewards of both thisnworld and the next did little to comfortnthis poor sinner.nAnother artist represented, MosenToUiver, was also known to me, at leastnfrom books. One of his paintings,n”Man on Scooter,” I’d seen reproduced.nHere was the original for a fewnhundred dollars. You could see thenman and you could see the scooter.nMaybe a dozen dabs of paint in all. Itn