Art is freedom. The freedom to be yourself. The freedom to dream, to design, to create. The only boundaries for the artist are the ones they place upon themselves.
Victoria Bobo puts few limitations on the folk art she creates. A shiny rock, a discarded water bottle, the tiniest slither of ribbon – all have the potential to become something entirely new in Evergreen resident’s home gallery. Her ambition to repurpose rarely knows bounds.
Her husband, Forrest, doesn’t let his things lie around the house too long. From time to time, they too have been known to get new lives.
“I have picked up a few of his things occasionally,” Vickie Bobo said with a laugh as the two engaged in the conversation. “But I do find a good place for them when I do.”
She says he’s a good sport about it all.
“He’s also my biggest supporter, and I don’t know what I’d do without him,” she said.
Whether it’s a common household item or something nature provides as she meditates on the banks of her family’s lake, Bobo uses the materials she acquires to tell colorful and vibrant stories.
Perhaps there’s no finer representation of her style than her 2015 painting, “The Shack.” The viewer is peering through a torn screen door from inside a dilapidated wooden structure. In the distance, a plank fence separates the viewer from a beautiful hillside landscape covered in yellow flowers. Attached to the interior walls of the shack are items representative of the owner’s life – a can of Zippo lighter fluid, a tin cup, a book for logging cotton and a Farmall tractor owner’s manual. All are securely attached to the piece, yet suspended in time, reminiscent of the 1950s era from which they came.
“Over time, I collect things from different people and places. I’m inspired to create from what I have, like with ‘The Shack,’” Bobo said. “It’s one of my favorite pieces. It represents a different time, a different way of life.”
Bobo’s works range from miniature models emblematic of everyday people, to vibrant paintings and statuesque colorful objects. Each, she says, revealed itself to her in its own time.
Her myriad creations represent a lifetime of work, but Bobo says none have been as fulfilling as her latest endeavor: a host of elaborately decorated mannequins she calls her “Church People.”
“Their identity changes from week to week,” she said. “One may become Queen Esther or King Solomon one Sunday and then become someone totally different the next. I really enjoyed creating those two characters, because I was able to take them beyond my usual scope of dressing them.”
Bobo uses her adorned mannequins to teach Sunday school classes at New Temple Baptist Church. Prior to teaching a children’s Sunday school class, she worked with children’s hour during their Sunday morning service.
Combining her art and her faith is something she finds very fulfilling. She hopes it will leave a lasting impression on the children she encounters.
“I want these stories to stick with the children, to have an impact,” Bobo said. “I believe the more they are engaged, the chances are greater they will not forget.”
She begins her lesson preparation with prayer and follows it with an in-depth Bible study and review of her Sunday school guide and workbook.
Throughout the exercise, she envisions how to approach the task using her “church people.”
Bobo said she concentrates on incorporating the three modalities of learning – Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic, or movement, (VAK) – in her lesson’s presentation. She’s convinced that by presenting the lesson not just in spoken form, but visually and actively, her students will retain more of what’s being taught. Her art is the perfect avenue, she said, for reaching the young, inquisitive learners.
“I present the story as interactively as I can, and when I finish them, I become their audience,” she said. “I give the children the opportunity to show me what they learned and tell the story back to me.”
Listening to the children tell the stories with their own words, in their own way, is rewarding beyond compare. She said she almost always learns something.
“The children will do little extra things, adding their own creativity to the story,” Bobo said. “That lets me know they are really paying attention. It’s reassuring that what I’m doing really makes a difference.”
Her favorite scripture is Psalms 34:3, “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”
Bobo deems it her spiritual mission to teach the children biblical scripture like her favorite Psalm and to use her art to do it, as long as her health permits. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis several years ago, she said some days the disease gets the best of her.
“I don’t always get to stay for the complete service and have to come home,” she said. “Sometimes the hours turn into days, but until God says it’s time to quit, I will continue.”
Her determination to keep going is only slightly overshadowed by her creative spirit. Both send a valuable and important message: The only boundaries are the ones we place upon ourselves.
“Everyone’s art is different,” she said. “Mine is my legacy, and I hope I have used it to make a difference in the lives of children.”