And now it is Butch Anthony and the NY Times!

Robert Rausch for The New York Times
Butch Anthony built his Alabama house himself, and filled it with his own art.
Robert Rausch for The New York Times
When Natalie Chanin and Butch Anthony met, he told her he was living in a log cabin, “but this was like a vision,” she said.
LIKE a medieval village, Butch Anthony’s 80-acre family compound is a self-contained universe, and every inch of it is an expression of his prodigious creative spirit. It makes a tempting destination for folk art aficionados, as well as the sort of art world tourists who’ve already ticked Marfa, Tex., or Joshua Tree, in the California desert, off their lists.
Mr. Anthony, a lanky and laconic 46-year-old who dresses exclusively in Liberty denim overalls (he owns 25 pairs) and a battered straw hat (he has 10), is a self-taught artist, builder and local hero, whom the state of Alabama once chose to make a Christmas tree ornament for the White House — the Bush 43 version. He is also the host of the Doo Nanny, the annual alt/folk art “micro” festival, as he calls it, that started as an “art party” he and two friends gave on the side of the road 15 years ago in nearby Pittsview, and moved to Mr. Anthony’s property here three years ago.
“There’s a 100-foot vagina we’re fixing to burn,” Mr. Anthony remarked recently while filling a garbage can in the back of his battered truck with water, a precautionary measure, one gathered, in case things got out of hand.
But why a vagina? “They’ve got a burning man, why not have a burning woman?”
Like Burning Man, the extreme art fair held each summer in the Nevada desert, the Doo Nanny offers both a burning effigy and an exercise in creative camping. Mr. Anthony has thoughtfully provided a tepee, an outdoor kitchen, a solar-powered shower, outhouses and a wood-fueled hot tub, all built from and decorated with the sort of handmade trash-into-art pieces — ethereal chandeliers pieced together with cow bones and twigs gnawed by beavers — that are his specialty.
It now attracts an intrepid crowd of makers and their fans who gather on the last weekend in March not only to show their work — and sell some, too, if they’re lucky — but to hang out with like-minded friends and partake of Mr. Anthony’s particular brand of Southern hospitality, which is certainly as homespun and country as his accent, but has an impish, renegade backbeat.
It is also a chance to see Mr. Anthony on his own, very atmospheric, turf.
His compound, which once belonged to his grandfather, a cotton farmer, is now home to Mr. Anthony; his father, Bishop Anthony, a retired insurance adjuster and occasional restaurateur; and sometimes Mr. Anthony’s partner, Natalie Chanin, and their 4-year-old daughter, Maggie. (She and Maggie come and go “on a part-time basis,” Ms. Chanin said, because her business — producing handmade clothes and soft goods under the Alabama Chanin label, which is sewn by local seamstresses and coveted by fashion world insiders — is run from her own home in Florence, Ala., a five-hour drive away.)
Other permanent residents include two peacocks, three chickens (Bob Ross, a blind 21-year-old white-crested Polish show rooster with a gift for fortune-telling, passed on last month), four dogs and a cat. Until recently, a tiny dancing donkey named Soapstick lived here, too — a YouTube video showcases his talent — but he kept escaping, and Mr. Anthony got tired of chasing him, so he gave Soapstick away.
Les Blank, the documentarian with an appetite for American originals (he has made films about Dizzy Gillespie and Alice Waters), came 12 years ago, and has been filming Mr. Anthony ever since.
When will the movie be done? “That’s a good question,” said Mr. Blank, who described Mr. Anthony as a kind of “national treasure.”
In any case, there’s much to see here, including the one-room log cabin Mr. Anthony built at 14 and the log house he began in 1988 and is still tweaking, made from heart pine salvaged from an old mill and put together with the help of his homemade rigging — cables and pulleys strung from the branches of pine trees. There are fields of artwork — like Dia: Beacon, but rural Alabama-style — that include enormous “bowls,” woven from beaver sticks, cow bones and old shoes and spray-painted white, and scraps of metal Mr. Anthony weaves together with hog wire to make siding, a material he has used in projects for the Rural Studio, the Auburn University architecture program that creates innovative housing for Alabama’s poorest residents.
A truck ride away, but still on the property, is the Possum Trot, a barbecue restaurant and junk auction house run by Mr. Anthony and his father, which comes to life Friday nights. Last week, the auction proceeds, $500, benefited the bands Mr. Anthony invited to the Doo Nanny, which this year cost him $5,700. There were about 1,000 visitors, whose combined donations totaled $1,500. “Maybe someday we’ll make some money,” he said.
Finally, there is the Museum of Wonder, a barnful of curiosities — the “world’s largest gallbladder,” a replica of a human skeleton, a stuffed chicken — and more of Mr. Anthony’s artwork, which includes 19th-century portraits painted over with crisp white images of skeletons and old photographs affixed to paintings of mythical creatures of his own imagining.
Like many contemporary artists, Mr. Anthony concerns himself with taxonomies, exploring questions of identity — familial, racial, biological and so forth. Unlike most contemporary artists, he was educated not at art school but in the woods here, where he skinned snakes, hunted raccoons and alligators and dug up arrowheads and fossils. (His alligator-hunting technique: jump on their heads from above, so they don’t have time to swim away.)
He did study zoology at Auburn — having dug up a Mosasaurus vertebrae at 14, he had made friends with paleontologists there — but dropped out his senior year, stymied by a required public speaking class. “I’ve always been nervous about crowds,” he said. “That’s why I live in the woods.”
“The art thing,” as Mr. Anthony likes to say, began in 1994 and can be summed up with this oft-told tale: John Henry Toney, now 82, was then a local tractor-for-hire. Plowing Mr. Anthony’s garden one day, he unearthed a gnarly turnip with a human countenance and made a drawing of it. As a joke, he and Mr. Anthony stuck it in the window of a friend’s junk shop with a $50 price tag, whereupon it was scooped up by Scott Peacock, the Atlanta-area chef and longtime collaborator of Edna Lewis, dame of Southern cooking.
“I thought, ‘Hell, if John Henry can sell one, I’ll try too,’ ” said Mr. Anthony, who embellished a “motel” painting — a cheap still life — “with a scraggly old paintbrush and some old paint set” bought at a Possum Trot auction. Not to be outdone, another friend, James Snipes, known as Buddy, now in his 60s, began
bringing his creations to the same junk store; they, too, sold briskly. Thus, three careers were launched.
Mr. Snipes, who paints on twisted roots, twigs or tin, and Mr. Toney, who makes gentle, allegorical colored-pencil drawings on cardboard, fall more easily into the outsider art category; Mr. Anthony’s work is harder to categorize.
Fred Fussell, a former curator at the Columbus Museum in Columbus, Ga., and now an independent curator and writer who focuses on traditional Southern culture, described Mr. Anthony as “one of a number of what I would call eccentric artists, which just means he does his own thing and doesn’t have much connection to other things except himself. I don’t like the term ‘outsider.’ ”
“In a whole number of ways that derive from his highly creative imagination,” Mr. Fussell continued, “he comes up with innovative thoughts and processes. He breaks down whatever he’s rendering into these various parts that are part physical and part invented by him. His is a really nice way of looking at the physical world.”
Mr. Anthony has made up his own word, “intertwangleism,” a label he paints on a lot of his pieces, which he defined this way: “Inter, meaning to mix,” he said. “And twang, a distinct way of speaking. If I make up my own ‘ism,’ no one can say anything or tell me I’m doing it wrong.”
Before the turnip incident, Mr. Anthony had been making a living selling barbecue lunches to the crew at the local paper mill. Making art quickly became more appealing. “In the food business,” Mr. Anthony recalled, “everyone was always complaining — the food’s too cold and whatever — but the art people were treating me like a king.”
The Doo Nanny began as a “little art party” with Mr. Toney and Mr. Snipes in Pittsview, the town where their friend had his junk shop. Mr. Toney named it, Mr. Anthony said. “He’d say, ‘When are we gonna have that Doo Nanny again?’”
At this year’s festival, Mr. Toney and Mr. Snipes were elder statesmen, courtly and serene among the gamboling art students. In contrast to the young folkies’ rainbow garb, the two looked elegant in plain overalls: Mr. Snipes was in denim, Mr. Toney in brown Carhartts and a black felt fedora.
Recalling his turnip epiphany, Mr. Toney said: “I started drawing, and I haven’t stopped. I always felt like that turnip meant something, but I couldn’t tell you what.” (The turnip now lives under glass, like the Mona Lisa, in Mr. Anthony’s Museum of Wonder. It looks like a fierce, bristly elf.)
Natalie Chanin, helping Mr. Toney find a glass of water for his “seizure” medication, grinned.
Mr. Toney continued: “Butch makes me think about Samson and the jaw bone,” referring to the biblical tale of Samson slaying an army of 1,000 with a donkey jaw bone. Then he stumped off through the woods, leaving a reporter to wonder if he was simply noting Mr. Anthony’s habit of using bones in his work, or speaking metaphorically.
Ms. Chanin and Mr. Anthony met six years ago at an art show and pig roast at the Rural Studio in Newbern, Ala. With her silver hair and her silver-haired wolf dog, which had accompanied her, Ms. Chanin “really stood out,” Mr. Anthony said.
Ms. Chanin was struck by the similarities in their work. His stitched metal siding, she noted, was like a crazy quilt. They made a promise to trade artwork. She stitched him a shirt, and a year later, he appeared at her home “with a whole mess of art,” he said, “and one thing just led to another.”
On their second date, Ms. Chanin came to Seale. “Butch had said he lived in a log cabin in the woods,” she said, “but this was like a vision.”
On their third date, they visited a sacred Native American site, a healing wall built by a friend of Ms. Chanin’s, which also featured a fertility object, a stone that Mr. Anthony “was nonchalantly tossing around and making jokes about,” said Ms. Chanin, who steered clear of it. Nevertheless, their daughter, Maggie, was conceived.
“That was a shock,” said Ms. Chanin, who is now 48. Born on the first day of spring four years ago, Maggie is heir to the Doo Nanny, as some guests pointed out this year.
Saturday night, the flaming vagina went off as planned, ignited by a “meteor” constructed from twigs and old ties. The bonfire burned for hours, roaring on the edge of the pond. There were no injuries, though earlier Mr. Anthony had punctured an ear drum cutting brush, mashed his thumb with a hammer and sliced the bridge of his nose.
“The Doo Nanny can be dangerous,” he said.
Mr. Anthony is not technically accident-prone, Ms. Chanin suggested, “he just gets carried away.”
She added proudly: “Butch can work wood or metal, he can grow anything. He has an incredible way with the things of the world, whether it’s a tree or a piece of junk, and he has his own aesthetic about how it should go together. He knows the name of every leaf and every plant and which ones you can eat. And if the world ever came to an end, I would want to be by his side.”