Life's Narrow Space (1983)

About the Film

Queena Stovall of Lynchburg, VA died in 1980, age 92. She was an authentic, self-taught American folk painter who took the everyday life she knew in rural Virginia and rendered it in paint with insight and sophistication. In this sole film portrait of the artist, her work becomes more complex upon closer inspection as we see that not only are the lives of southern whites depicted with skill and affection, but those of neighboring blacks are portrayed with equal fidelity. She saw life in realistic terms; for example, Christmas wasn't cherubs and chubby-cheeked Santas, it was hog-killing on a cold winter's day. Her grandmother gave her the nickname “Queena” based on a child’s attempt to pronounce Serena. She married Jonathan Breckenridge “Brack” Stovall in 1908; they had five sons and four daughters. The Stovalls lived at various times in Lynchburg and nearby Elon.

Queena was an authentic, self-taught American folk painter who took the everyday life she knew in rural Virginia and rendered it in paint with insight and sophistication. In this sole film portrait of the artist, her work becomes more complex upon closer inspection as we see that not only are the lives of southern whites depicted with skill and affection, but those of neighboring blacks are portrayed with equal fidelity. She saw life in realistic terms; for example, Christmas wasn't cherubs and chubby-cheeked Santas, it was hog-killing on a cold winter's day.

Jack: “I spoke often with the late Louis Jones, then director of the New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, NY. Through him I located Queena Stovall in Lynchburg, VA. Drove there and filmed her and her paintings. This was at the time of the Atlanta child murders and the Stovalls, as an old Southern family, were anxious that the murderer not be white. Turned out he was a crazed black man. Mrs. Stovall was the essence of charm and practicality. “I always painted what was there with no frills,” she said. She painted the black and white culture of rural Virginia with equal fidelity. Our family is multi-racial and we had a fascinating lunch with the Stovalls in which our two little black daughters and our Asian son offered to help, but the family asked them to sit at the dining room table, where they were served by all of the Stovalls. Later, they gazed for many minutes out the living room window as our kids tore up and down the street with all the white kids. The Stovalls were great cooks. They grew the celery for their excellent Bloody Marys, made their own lemonade, smoked their hams, made their fluffy biscuits and a great lemon meringue pie. Our kids still remember lunch with the Stovalls as do we.”

Licensing

For licensing, film rights and permissions, contact Jack Ofield, the distributor New Pacific Productions - Distribution Services , or Folkstreams.

Film Details

  • Film by: Jack Ofield
  • Produced by: Jack Ofield
  • Cinematographer: Jack Ofield
  • Sound: Harvey Koppel
  • Other Credits: Queena Stovall, Lynchburg, Virginia, Museum of American Folk Art, American Film Institute
  • Original Format: Film: 16mm
  • ©Original 1983 Bowling Green/Jack Ofield
  • 6 mins, Color
  • Categories:
    Arts & Crafts, TraditionalCustomsFamilyRural Life