The "Caribbean Style" book mentioned below is a great reference
for African American vernacular architecture. The shotgun house
form is transformed through the use of gingerbread trim and
bright colors. Similar ones are still found in New Orleans, but
I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, among the most common,
simple forms of the shotgun house in the U.S. They looked like the
shotgun houses in Biggers' work.
The shotgun house is also a good example of the need for contextual
information to understand an artist's intention. The term
"shotgun house" refers to a long, narrow house in which one
could supposedly shoot a shotgun straight through the front door
and out the back. The rooms are arranged in a row, one after
another. I like Biggers' explanation that the term really should
be "shogun", a king's house.
This past week I also came upon a book that elementary teachers
might want to use in discussing the use of the taut strings in
many of Biggers' works. It's called "String Games from Around
the World," by Anne Akers Johnson, published by Klutz, Palo
Alta, CA, in 1995.
> From: <MegaSept>
> To: ArtsEdNet
> Subject: John Biggers
> You have done a fantastic job. Remember, not all of us are
> involved in arts education. I am an artist. So, to me, arts education
> means my own education. I have been meaning to research John Biggers' work
> for the last couple months. By featuring Biggers you have done a tremendous
> service to me. I have been tremendously touched by his work, which bares
> only the faintest physical resemblance to my own work. I feel like a
> spiritual cousin.
> By the way, I lived among the Yoruba in Nigeria (1966-67),
> and worked and lived in New Orleans (1977), and never realized the connection
> between shotgun and shogun. There is a very informative set of plans of
> different Caribbean vernacular house layouts in a coffee book named
> "Caribbean Style".
> Thanks for offering the beginning of a real library
> on-line. As an artist this is exactly what I need. The more detail, the
Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
PO Box 305100, University of North Texas
Denton, TX 76203
940/565-3986 FAX 940/565-4867