He called himself the "Old Black Man", a Navajo Indian. He went to elementary school for six months. At the age of fifteen, he ran away with the Adams Forpaugh Circus, then became a sailor. After his return to the United States he got married and left a year later for South America. Soldier during the First World War, he returned to the United States and got married in 1929. In the 1950s he settled permanently in Chicago, where he had a little shop and sold bric-a-brac and paintings. His drawings represent landscapes from his real or imaginary travels : mountains, roads, rivers, stylized animals and trees. He believed to have been inspired and guided by God. He uses ballpoint pen, felt-tip pen, watercolors and pastels. On some of his works we see the name of the country and the place it depicts. Sometimes he even added the address with the zip code, the date and copyright. Then he hung the drawing in his store to sell it. Yoakum’s landscapes, even if they emanate calmness, sometimes recall anatomical sections. His mountains resemble sections of the brain and his rivers recall blood vessels. And the travels to which he invites us are perhaps interior - those of a man searching for himself.
SEE ALSO :
Depasse, Derrel B. Traveling the Rainbow : The Life and Art of Joseph E. Yoakum. Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2001.