Homeless Folk Artist Getting Recognition for Prolific Body of Work

Herbert Freeman speaks like a preacher, talking about truth and vision, about right and wrong, about God and God’s creations. When addressing these issues, his words are heartfelt, his voice filled with emotion. He uses his paintings and drawings to enhance his message; like diagrams, they bring clarity to his complex world view.

Freeman, who is 59 years old, lives in Orlando, Fla. He is self-taught and has been making art for more than 30 years. Life has not always been easy for this artist. At times he has been homeless and up until recently, he sold his work on the streets of Orlando. Yet Freeman has touched many people and he has his supporters. One friend, James Lane, has collected many of his works with the sole purpose of preserving them. It was Lane’s efforts that brought Freeman to the attention of the America Folk Art Society. In addition, Lane introduced Freeman’s work to Shari Cavin and Randall Morris, who now represent him at the Cavin Morris Gallery in New York City.

Herbert Freeman

Some of Freeman’s drawings are portraits depicting people he has encountered, while other works resemble maps or charts used by a teacher. All his efforts are intensely focused. In them we see the concentration of an artist deeply connected to his vision.

Freeman works on a range of found materials. He has used wood, cardboard and other random surfaces as a base to draw and paint. Friends bring what they pick up from construction sites as a gesture of support and encouragement. Freeman is exceptionally talented at adapting to whatever surface is at hand. He can create images with a range of mediums, from paint to markers, but he says he feels at his best when using a pencil.

Most of Freeman’s portraits are simple and straightforward. A face fills the page, either with eyes wide open, staring out at the viewer, or with eyes closed as if the subject is deep in thought or meditation. Sometimes a name will be written above the head, or maybe a word that suggests a profession or a calling is inscribed.

Read more: Escape Into Life

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