Panhandle Slim, a folk artist from Savannah, Ga., is coming to Charleston this afternoon to deliver some portraits he made of the victims of last week’s mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church.
“Just like everybody, hearing the stories, hearing the news, feeling pretty helpless, you want to do something. You could write; heck, I can paint,” he says. “I had the idea one night, I think Friday night, just after watching the news: I can paint these people and try to learn something about them.”
Slim, whose legal name is Scott Stanton, is a Pensacola, Fla., native who started his career as a professional skateboarder and took an interest in painting after discovering the work of the Georgia pastor and folk artist Howard Finster. He’s had a few gallery shows, including in Savannah and Los Angeles, and he has built a reputation for using a bright color palette to depict artistic and historic figures alongside handwritten quotes or anecdotes about their lives. He typically paints on scrap wood or thin plywood.
For his project depicting the Emanuel Nine, as the shooting victims have been called, Stanton says he called some of his journalist friends to help him pick out important details about his subjects’ lives to highlight.
“The project consumed me,” he says. “It was a lot to learn, and the more I learned about these people, the more I realized this was a special group of people.”
Stanton says he plans to drop the paintings off this afternoon in front of Emanuel AME, where a massive collection of flowers and memorials started appearing last week.
“I like to kind of leave it almost up to faith. Whatever happens, I’m just going to leave them there,” Stanton says. “Hopefully they end up with the family members.”