Jo Ann Butts was born in 1950 in an old log cabin where her father, grandfather and great-grandfather were born on the Watson family farm in Eastern Kentucky.
Growing up in a hard-scrabble family, Butts learned to make toys for herself and her siblings. She learned to use a pocket knife to make whistles, bow and arrows and a multitude of items. Butts states, “The hillsides were our playground and we swung on grapevines and slid down the steep hillsides into a pile of leaves at the bottom. Growing up without much helped me to sharpen my skills and helped me to learn how to work with my hands and create something from nothing.”
Creating things runs in the family. After moving back to Kentucky from Ohio in 1999, it was her cousin, the famous folk artist Minnie Adkins, who encouraged Butts to begin working with wood. She started with a small sheep and slowly branched out until she now creates a wide variety of animals that reflect having grown up on a large hillside farm. She paints her pigs, hedge hogs, sheep, skunks, fish, badgers, turtles and frogs with brightly colored paint. Her signature animal is the rooster.
Butts has also painted three murals on barns in Elliott County where she lives. Her folk art paintings capture the animals and landscapes of her home. Her work is sold at the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead, and in the Huntington Museum of Art as well as in galleries in five other states.
Work by Jo Ann Butts can be found at Ann Tower Gallery, Lexington, KY; at the Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV; at the Maddis Gallery and Southern Folk Art in NC, and at the Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea, KY.
Roosters by Jo Ann Butts