Former local artist Woodie Long dies at 67

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Woodie Long, the house painter-turned-folk-artist whose work gained national acclaim, succumbed to cancer Monday. He was 67.

Born in Plant City, Fla., Long and his wife, Dot, moved to Andalusia in the early 1980s. He discovered his artistic talent in 1988 while his wife was at an art class, Kathy Kemp wrote in Revelations, Alabama’s Visionary Folk Artists.

Long told Kemp that while his wife was in class, he picked up some of her art supplies and started painting.

“I knew they was good. And it scared me to death,” he told Kemp of his first three paintings.

A few weeks later, he had his first show at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College and sold almost all of the paintings. It wasn’t long before Woodrow Wilson Long was the darling of the folk art world, known to most simply as “Woodie.”

He was one of 12 children born to sharecroppers. As a child, he was often too busy working in the fields to attend school. Ironically, images of bright yellow school buses are featured often in his work, which he told one interviewer, represented a wonderful place he imagined other children went while he went to work every day.

“I wanted to write my memories down,” Long told Kemp of his early work. “I had a lot to say, you know. But it was just too hard for me to do. I can talk a million miles an hour, but I can’t write. So I thought, why don’t I paint ‘em?”

In recent years, he maintained a home and gallery in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.

He and his work have been featured in numerous books and magazines. His work is included in a number of public and private collections, from Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia to The Fenimore House in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Other collections that include Woodie’s work are The Strombecker Corporation in Chicago; the Frank M. Johnson Federal Building, Montgomery; the Governor’s Mansion, Charleston, W.Va.; Andalusia Public Library; New Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga; Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery; National School Safety Center, Malibu, Calif.; Birmingham International Airport, Birmingham, Ala.; Ronald McDonald House, Atlanta; Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia; Monteflore Medical Center; and in the private art collections of Tommy Lee Jones, Dan Ackroyd and the House of Blues.