AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange — the documentary series from Black Public Media and WORLD Channel dedicated to bringing the stories of men and women from across the African Diaspora — examines the art and legacy of an amazing visual artist as season 15 continues this April with Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts. The documentary is now available to stream at worldchannel.org, blackpublicmedia.org, WORLD’s YouTube Channel, Black Public Media’s YouTube Channel, PBS.org and the PBS app. It will have its U.S. television premiere on WORLD Channel on Monday, April 17, at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.
Directed by Jeffrey Wolf and executive produced by documentarian Sam Pollard (Citizen Ashe, Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power, MLK/FBI), Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts presents a unique look at the life and artistry of a pioneering American artist whose gifts remained unrecognized for most of his life. Born into slavery on a plantation near Pleasant Hill, Alabama, in 1853, Traylor would witness the many changes that came to Alabama and the nation well into the 20th century. Spending the majority of his life in the rural area in which he was born and working the land first as an enslaved person then as a sharecropper, Traylor began his artistic endeavors when he moved to Montgomery in his 80s. A self-taught artist who often used found materials in his work, Traylor reflected the social life, spirituality, people, animals, work-life and everyday life of the Black life in the American South in his paintings and drawings.
Through archival footage and photographs, music, narration and Traylor’s own paintings, the film explores both Traylor’s artistic creations and his personal life — a life that survived enslavement, the Civil War and Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Great Migration’s shift from agrarian to urban communities for many Black Americans. The documentary offers an insightful look at a man who, living in a time of accepted racial inequities, used his talent to capture and document the culture, celebrations, fears and customs of Black life on the plantation and in the city. Though Traylor never garnered acclaim from the art world while alive, today the prolific artist, who created more than one thousand drawings and paintings between 1939 and 1942, is one of America’s most noted artists with his pieces displayed in galleries and private collections worldwide.
“Critic’s Pick! A sincere, nourishing account of the artist. Wolf makes excellent use of photo and film archives, laying out the territory that fed Traylor’s vision,” wrote Glenn Kenny of The New York Times.
“Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts is an essential artist documentary. …weaves all these stories into one remarkable biography with a seismic impact on art history,” wrote Shana Nys Dambrot of the LA Weekly/Village Voice.
Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts can be streamed for free as part of the 15th season of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange on worldchannel.org, WORLD’s YouTube Channel, Black Public Media’s YouTube Channel, PBS.org and the PBS app.
The film will have its U.S. national broadcast premiere on Monday, April 17, at 8 p.m. Eastern (7 p.m. Central) on WORLD Channel as episode three of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange (check your local listings for your local WORLD station and local air times).
Other films in this season of AfroPoP include Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz; Queen Kidjo by Clair Duguet; The Sound ofMasks by Sara CF de Gouveia; and Rewind & Play from Alain Gomis. AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is produced by Black Public Media (BPM) and WORLD Channel and distributed and co-presented by American Public Television (APT).