All Dwellings Are Not Alike 20


All Dwellings Are Not Alike”

This Asante proverb comes to mind when one enters the South Fulton residence of Lee and Delores Shelton. An elaborate basket weave sculpture hanging high on the wall commands your attention as you enter the front door. Immediately we become engaged.  

“My wife is the collector,” Dr. Shelton explains as our eyes stretch to capture the panorama before us. “I just facilitate,” he continues, escorting us into a veritable museum of art.

Most of the artists in the Sheltons’ diverse collection are African American. An array of art from the Middle and Far East, Africa, South America, New Zealand and Thailand reflect the global extent of their travels. Transporting art was not complicated a few years ago.

The late Nigerian playwright and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka said the art of his country “lifted him into realms of universal sublimity.” Sublime would describe the aura of the room where Nigerian Karen Kisa’s painting hangs. It is one of Dr. Shelton’s favorites. 

We turn slightly and see an intricately carved ivory tusk from Kenya, across from it a delicately etched mirror from Asia, and on an adjacent wall, ebony profiles called “Two Generations” and “Black Is Beautiful” painted by the late Elizabeth Catlett. Renowned for her sculpture, her versatility is shared by other professionals in the Shelton collection. 

For example, there is an impressionistic painting of a Parisian street scene by local architect Oscar Harris. Harris designed the Atrium at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and the Atrium in the Fulton County Government Building.

As the iconic African-American historian Henry Lewis Gates reminds us, African American art influenced European art. Picasso infamously said, “African art? Never heard of it.” Of course, he would later disavow such disparagement, with cubism as but one of the styles he adopted from the Motherland. The Shelton collection embraces the universal interconnectedness of art.

A huge silk screen from Japan graces one wall while a few feet away Woodrow Nash’s earthy sculptured man sitting cross-legged grabs your attention. Then there is Emma Amos’ painting, “Dream Girl.” Amos is the daughter of the late Dr. Amos, owner of Amos Drug Store which was located on the corner of Hunter and Ashby Street—now MLK Jr. Drive and Lowery Boulevard, and a favorite destination for chili dogs. Who knew Emma Amos would be commissioned to create the art for the Atlanta Olympics?

In Ruby Dee’s book, Moon Glow, Gordon Nelson states, “An artist isn’t a leader. He’s a pointer toward hope.” Mrs. Shelton must have internalized that idea as she made art collecting and promotion of artists her life’s work. She supported the South Cobb Arts Alliance exhibits, served on the board of the Neighborhood Art Center and was a juror for the Atlanta Life Insurance Company’s art competitions. Dr. Michael Harris, Romare Bearden, Dr. Leo Teigs and John Riddle were among the participants in these events.

Mrs. Shelton frequented Gold’s auctions of antiques and the American Craft Council shows. Until recent years, she was fashion coordinator for Sears. Dr. Shelton currently sings bass with the Uzee Brown Society of Choraliers and the Michael O’Neal Summer Singers. Some may recall that he played trumpet in a trio of physician colleagues “back in the day.”

After viewing the Sheltons’ amazing cornucopia of visual expression, we had to take a seat to reflect—and rest. All dwellings are truly not alike.