O. W. “Pappy” Kitchens (1901–1986) was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, and began painting at age sixty-seven. His self-taught, narrative, visual art springs directly from the oral tradition of parable and storytelling with which he grew up. A self-declared folk artist, Kitchens claimed, “I paint about folks, what folks see and what folks do.”
His magnum opus, The Saga of Red Eye the Rooster, was painted between 1973 and 1976 and presents a homespun Pilgrim’s Progress in the form of a beast fable. Kitchens’s most ambitious allegorical work, this fable consists of sixty panels, each one measuring fifteen inches square, composed of mixed materials on paper, and executed in three groups of twenty. Kitchens follows Red Eye from foundling to funeral, exploring the life of this extraordinary bird. Red Eye’s quasi-human behavior inevitably maneuvers him into conflicts with antagonists of all sorts. He encounters violence, avarice, lust, greed, and most of the other seven deadly sins, dispatching them in heroic fashion until he finally succumbs to his own fatal flaw.
In addition to The Saga of Red Eye the Rooster, the volume features personal photos of Kitchens as well as additional works by the artist. Written by distinguished artist and Kitchens’s once son-in-law William Dunlap, with an introduction by renowned curator Jane Livingston, Pappy Kitchens and the Saga of Red Eye the Rooster brings much-needed exposure to the life and work of a key Mississippi figure.