by Maricela Nodar
Velvet painting, the art for kitsch and Elvis fans everywhere, is an ancient technique, but became widely popular in rural America, and in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico in the 1970s. Velvet painting originated in the homeland of fabric, ancient Kashmir. They were originally religious painting depicting icons of the Caucasus region, which were painted by Russian Orthodox priests. Marco Polo introduced black velvet paintings to western culture, some which still hang in the Vatican museum. In modern days, velvet paintings often depict images of Elvis Presley, Dale Earnhardt (yes, the NASCAR driver), John Wayne, Jesus, Native Americans, wolves, and cowboys.
Doyle Harden and Edgar Leeteg are considered to be big daddy’s of the velvet painting culture. Originally a farm from Georgia, Doyle Harden started a factory in the 1970s that hired thousands of artists to produce these great paintings that families all over the bible belt could hang over their fireplace. One artist would paint one piece of the picture, then slide the velvet along to the next artist, who would add something else. Edgar Leeteg, who is often called the “father of velvet painting”, made his best work in Tahiti from 1933 to 1953, where his paintings of exotic Polynesian women established him as an artist. Before Edgar, velvet painting was considered just a hobby, but he made it into a successful art form.
The rich and bold colors we get out of painting on velvet make this art form the “art we love to hate”. Although it’s tacky and a bit offensive, Americans proudly display their framed velvet paintings of cute kittens and dolphins proudly. Whether it’s the campy portraits of Elvis made by Doyle Harden, the Hollywood fan art produced by Mexican artists in the 70s, or the beautiful and exotic women by Edgar Leeteg, I feel (and partially hope) that velvet painting is here to stay. As an avid velvet lover, I’ve found another reason to love this rich fabric. Not only does it have the capability to make your garments go from plain to fabulous, but it also has the ability to show your true appreciation for NASCAR and Elvis and it’s a great way to decorate your living room!
“Velveteria.” Velveteria – The Museum of Velvet Paintings. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Dec 2011. <http://velveteria.com/>.
“Velvet Painting.” . N.p., March 2011. Web. 17 Dec 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvet_painting>.