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Best Art Sans Art School San Francisco 2004 - Friday the 13th West

If you prefer art minus the poseurs, overclever conceptuals, and screeching-edge technology, check out this small gallery featuring the work of Jimmie Lee Sudduth. The Alabama artist, who recently celebrated his 94th birthday, got his start at age 4 by painting an image with mud on a tree stump. When it was washed away by rain, he tried again, this time mixing the mud with syrup and achieving a lasting result. Today the prolific self-taught artist continues to use mud -- he says it comes in more than a dozen colors -- mixed with syrup, sugar, or Coca-Cola, in addition to conventional paint, and much of his work is still done with his fingers. His art is now in the Smithsonian's permanent collection. Bennie Hutto had been a friend of Sudduth since her childhood, so when she and Suzanne Mailloux opened the gallery, the artist became its crown jewel. Friday the 13th West exhibits outsider art and local work with a similar aesthetic, a slippery area hard to define. In Hutto's words, "It's unpredictable and fascinating and exciting, just like life should be." Open Thursday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m., or randomly, or by appointment.

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