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Visionary: Highlights from the Folk Art Collection
October 5 - March 30, 2014
The Huntington Museum
of Art website announces the exhibition Self-taught, Outsider, Visionary:
Highlights from the Folk Art Collection, being held October 5 through March 30, 2014 as follows:
Art created by non-academic artists has always been hard
to characterize -- and perhaps that is a good thing. There have never been
clear-cut lines in art especially in the areas of craft, illustration, photography,
vernacular furniture, and so on. Art historians are quick to categorize
with "isms" and "idioms." Art that doesn't fit concisely
into these labels can often be new and refreshing.
Whatever the label, there is a rich tradition (of what
we will call folk art, for simplicity's sake), in the Appalachian region.
The permanent collection of the Huntington Museum of Art includes more than
200 outstanding examples of paintings, drawings, sculpture, textiles and
"eccentric" or vernacular furniture by self-taught artists including
Edgar and Donny Tolson, Shields Landon Jones, Garland and Minnie Adkins,
Dilmus Hall, Evan Decker, Noah and Charlie Kinney, Linvel Barker, Jimmy
Lee Sudduth, "The Baltimore Glass Man", Reverend Howard Finster
The bulk of this rich collection is made up of works created
by artists from Kentucky, West Virginia, and other Southern Appalachian
states. Most of these were acquired by the Museum in the 1980s and 1990s,
and the Museum is still adding to this collection. A number of these artists,
including Evan Decker, S.L. Jones, Minnie Adkins, and Charley and Noah Kinney
are represented by a large numbers of objects.
The collection also has many excellent 19thcentury folk
art examples of paintings, sculpture and textiles, including works by Sala
Bosworth, Susannah F. Nicholson, Asa Ames, and Eliza Isabella Means Seaton,
which will also be part of the exhibition. (right: Noah Kinney, American,
Kentucky, 1912-1991, Kathy Lee from the Kinney Band, early
1980s, wood, objects, Overall (A: Kathy Lee): 58 x 26 1/2 x 10 inches (147.3
x 67.3 x 25.4cm), Overall (B: mandolin): 28 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches
(72.4 x 26.7 x 3.8cm), Place of Origin: Kentucky, United States.
Funds provided by Mrs. Donna S. Hall, 1992.30.1-3)
(right: Noah Kinney, American, Kentucky, 1912-1991, Kathy Lee from
the Kinney Band, early 1980s, wood, objects, Overall (A: Kathy
Lee): 58 x 26 1/2 x 10 inches (147.3 x 67.3 x 25.4cm), Overall (B: mandolin):
28 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches (72.4 x 26.7 x 3.8cm), Place of Origin:
Kentucky, United States. Funds provided by Mrs. Donna S. Hall, 1992.30.1-3)
(above: Noah Kinney, American, Kentucky, 1912-1991, Ann
Mary from the Kinney Band, early 1980s, wood, cloth, objects,
Overall (A: Ann Mary): 60 x 26 x 13 1/2 inches (152.4 x 66 x 34.3cm), Overall
(B: fiddle): 23 x 26 x 13 1/2 inches (58.4 x 66 x 34.3cm), Overall (C: bow):
25 x 1/2 x 1 inches (63.5 x 1.3 x 2.5cm), Place of Origin: Kentucky,
United States. Funds provided by Mrs. Donna S. Hall, 1992.30.1-3)
(above: Noah Kinney, American, Kentucky, 1912-1991, Rose
Marie, from the Kinney Band, early 1980s, wood, objects, Overall (A:
Rose Marie): 62 1/2 x 27 1/2 x 12 inches (158.8 x 69.9 x 30.5cm), Overall
(B: guitar): 35 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches (88.9 x 29.2 x 3.8cm), Overall (C:
amp): 8 x 7 x 1 3/4 inches (20.3 x 17.8 x 4.4cm), Place of Origin: Kentucky,
United States. Funds provided by Mrs. Donna S. Hall, 1992.30.1)
Introductory text for the exhibition
The term volkskunst or "folk art" originated
in Germany by ethnographers trying to define art made "by the people."
This term applied mostly to traditional artwork created by peasant communities
that were connected by geography, religious faith, agrarian lifestyle, or
kinship. In the United States the National Endowment for the Arts defines
"folk art" as art whose creation comes from a tradition -- "learned
at the knee" and passed from generation to generation, or through some
established cultural community.
The term "folk art" has become a type of art
referring generally to artists, who as Gerard Wertkin, former Director of
the American Folk Art Museum, New York, called "artists who come to
their creative expression from outside the formal systems or institutions
of the art world -- artists whose training for the most part is in an informal
or non-academic setting, or who are self-taught."
In the 20th century, works by this group of artists gave
rise to many other associative, somewhat elastic terms, including "self-taught,"
"primitive," "naïve," "isolate," "visionary,"
"intuitive," "art brut," and "outsider,"
The permanent collection of the Huntington Museum of Art
includes more than 200 outstanding examples of paintings, drawings, sculpture,
textiles and "eccentric" or vernacular furniture by "self-taught"
artists. Many of these works were created by artists from Kentucky, West
Virginia, and other Southern Appalachian states. The collection also contains
many excellent 19th century examples, highlights of which are included in
(above: Edgar Tolson, American, 1904-1984, Herod's Palace:
The Christians Being Fed to the Lions and the Beheading of St. John, the
Baptist, 1976, Poplar, pine, cedar, Popsicle sticks, paint, ink, and
graphite, Overall: 25 x 24 x 15 inches (63.5 x 61 x 38.1cm), Place of
Origin: Campton, Kentucky, United States. Museum purchase, 1995.15)
Object labels for the exhibition
- Susannah F. Q. Nicholson (American, 1804-1858)
- Ann Elizabeth Quarles 1st,
- Oil on canvas
- Gift of Mrs. Walter Windsor, Hale Van Zandt, Mr. John
Wood Boulton in honor of their Mother,Mrs. Richard K. Van Zandt. 1976.22
- Charley Kinney (American, 1906-1991)
- Lion, 1978
- Paint, paper window shade
- Funds provided by Mrs. Donna S. Hall, 1992.30.16
- Brothers Charley and Noah Kinney began creating art after
both "retired" from farming. Animals were some of their favorite
subjects. Charley Kinney had an extremely active imagination, and vivid
memories of past events. Dramatic portrayals of natural and supernatural
forces are the subject of his narrative, highly emotional, colorful paintings.
Correct scale and proportion were of little interest to him. Necessary
frugality defines the brothers' work, which stems from their hardscrabble
existence. Old window shades became paintings, and creek clay was formed
into animal and human-shaped sculptures; found materials were recycled
- The two brothers rarely traveled far from their family
- Alexander (Asa) Ames (American, 1823-1851)
- Bust of a Young Man (possibly self-portrait)
- ca. 1847
- Poplar, paint
- Funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Nichols and the
1978 Antiques Show Fund. 1978.13
- Asa Ames's life is a fascinating, and ultimately tragic
story. He was born in New York State, near Buffalo, and although his early
career cannot be traced with certainty, by 1847, he was residing in Albany
with a family for whom he carved busts of three children. This became
the pattern for the rest of his short life. Apparently suffering from
tuberculosis, he spent extended periods of time living with various family
members and friends, carving busts and full-length sculptures of the younger
members of the household, perhaps in exchange for medical care. His work,
of gessoed and painted wood, was characterized by a direct frontality with
great attention to detail and dress. Sadly, he was finally overcome by
his illness, and he died at age 27.
- The Huntington Museum's Bust of a Young Man (ca.
1847), though unsigned and undated, can be attributed to Ames on stylistic
and other grounds. An interesting feature is a circular hole into which
some type of ornament was originally placed. It may have been a medallion
recording an academic, athletic, or other achievement. Whatever it was,
the prominence of its placement indicates great importance to its owner.
- Edgar Tolson (American, 1904-1984)
- Herod's Palace: The Christians Being Fed to the Lions
and the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, 1976
- Poplar, pine, cedar, popsicle sticks, paint, ink, graphite
- Museum purchase, 1995.15
- Tolson was a woodcarver, born into a poor tenant farming
family in Wolfe County, Kentucky. He worked a variety of different jobs
to support his family, which included work with the railroad, carpentry,
timbering, and sawmill. He also began preaching when he was twenty. In
1942 he married his second wife Hulda Patton, who bore him sixteen children,
- While recovering from a stroke in 1957, Tolson began
carving his figural tableaus for which he became widely-known. After getting
a television, Tolson became especially interested in politics. Michael
D. Hall, Tolson's longtime dealer, interpreter and promoter wrote about
this particular piece in his book titled, Stereoscopic Perspective:
Reflections on American Fine and Folk Art,
- "Throughout the summer of 1974, he followed the
Watergate hearings on television. The deceptions and breaches of public
trust that the inquiries revealed prompted him to carve what must be regarded
as the finest piece of his late period -- the construction he calls The
Beheading of St. John/King Herod and the Christians."
- Tolson explained to Hall that the work simply depicts
the abuse of power.
- Donny Tolson (American, b. 1958)
- Daniel Boone Kilt a Bar (sic),
- Funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. G.B. Johnson, Dr. and
Mrs. Thomas J. Holbrook, and Eighth Annual Benefit Antiques Show Fund,
- Donny Tolson, Edgar's son, has carried on the carving
tradition in Campton, Kentucky begun by his Father. His subjects range
from religious scenes, figures from history, scenes of everyday life, and
icons of the 20th century.
- The younger Tolson's style is more detailed and elegant
in execution. In this unpainted work, this simple elegance is apparent
in the way the artist has crafted the tree branches, and the fine details
of the rifle and squirrel.
- Shields Landon (S.L.) Jones (American, 1901-1997)
- Orvil, ca. 1982
- Wood, paint
- Gift of Robert B. Egelston, 1991.46.15
- A native of Hinton, West Virginia, Jones began carving
wooden busts and figures of family, old friends, and co-workers, soon after
retiring from forty-six years with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. After
his wife of forty-five years passed away, Jones found himself facing a
lonely retirement. To combat depression, and to keep himself active, Jones
rediscovered carving and fiddle playing, both of which he had learned as
- a young boy.
- Jones' sculptures have a solidity of form with wide faces,
narrow eyes, and thick lips and necks. These were more than sculptures
to Jones; they were companions. Using aged wood, he would rough out the
general shape with a chain saw, then sculpt the details with a chisel and
knife. In his later years, after a stroke left him unable to wield sculptor's
tools, he turned to drawing.
- Garland Adkins (American, 1928-1997)
- Black Horse, 1989
- Wood, paint
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert
- Minnie Adkins (American, b. 1934)
- Red Fox, 1988
- Wood, paint
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Vogele, 1991.39.5
- A colorful menagerie has emerged from Adkins' wood shop
in rural eastern Kentucky, and includes roosters, pigs, bears, opossums,
and foxes. Recognized for their skillful carving and playful display of
color and expression, these works have played prominent roles in the wide
exposure given to self-taught art in Kentucky during the past two decades.
- Minnie Adkins, born in Elliott County, Kentucky, spent
many hours during her childhood with a pocketknife in her hand, carving
slingshots, pop guns and dolls. After a year of high school, she dropped
out and got married. She and her first husband, Garland, like many residents
of Appalachia, moved north to Ohio in pursuit of employment. Following
the couple's return to live in Isonville, Kentucky, Minnie visited an art
gallery that had a display of folk art. She recognized the potential for
selling her work and boldly made arrangements to consign her carvings.
Her earlier works were collaborations with her husband Garland, who often
procured the raw materials for her carvings and roughed out the shapes
- Dilmus Hall (American, 1900-1988)
- Crucifixion, 1930-40
- Wood, cloth, paint, and clay
- Gift of Robert B. Egelston, 1991.46.7
- Dilmus Hall was an African American self-taught artist
from Athens, Georgia. He is best known for both small and large-scale sculptures
created out of concrete, found and scrap pieces of wood, and drawings executed
in colored pencil and crayon. His subject matter includes simple, charming
depictions of animals and humans, and ambitious allegorical and religious
narrative scenes, including a few depicting important figures from local
- Hall worked as a hotel captain, a waiter, a sorority
house busboy on the local University of Georgia campus, and as a fabricator
of concrete blocks for a construction company. He was a deep thinker, a
philosopher, and a man of fierce faith. He believed that the teachings
and happenings in the Bible were never far from contemporary life.
- In the 1950s Hall began to gain local attention for his
architectural adornments and "yard art" outside his small cinder
block home. The work entitled The Devil and the Drunk Man depicts
two life size drunkards and the devil in an allegorical environment. Hall
believed that the devil was everywhere, encouraging people to commit sins.
These sculptures protected Hall from the devil. Much comparison has been
made between Hall's art and the African American conjuring culture, a vernacular
religion that mixes aspects of Christianity with many African traditions
of empowering objects. Hall was drawn to, and believed in the power of
objects and symbols, although he was unaware of their African cultural
allusions. To illustrate this point, Hall's oeuvre includes a large number
of sensitive and powerful depictions of the crucifixion, many of which
use a simplified, tripartite, y-shaped cross. This symbolic shape closely
relates to a root sculpture constructed of a found twisted branch, scraps
of wood, metal, nails and paint c. 1940 (now part of the William S. Arnett
Collection), that Hall always referred to as his personal emblem.
- Evan Decker (American, 1912-1981)
- Cardinal Cage with Woman and Pine Cone Trees
- ca. 1974-1980
- Wood, paint, wire
- Partial gift of Larry Hackley, Arthur Jones, James Pierce,
Richard Smith, Ellworth Taylor, Sidney Webb with partial funds provided
by Dr. R. Lawrence Dunworth, 1991.74.12
- Decker, a farmer and carpenter in Wayne County, Kentucky,
created nostalgic works that look back to the "horse and buggy"
days inspired by fond memories of his boyhood home, and family. He is known
for both his carved sculptures, and his "eccentric" furniture.
His early unpainted pieces from the 1940s (of which HMA has many) foreshadow
his more elaborate, painted work of the 1970s such as Cardinal Cage
with Woman and Pine Cone Trees.
- Often, the artist combined found wood, such as tree limbs,
and roots with delicately carved birds, squirrels, and other woodland creatures.
This elaborately decorated cage was probably never used as a real cage
for animals, although its actual purpose, if it was made for functional
use, is unknown. James Pierce, a former professor of art history at the
University of Kentucky, and a collector of Kentucky folk art, in an article
on Decker wrote, "during a lifetime of hard work and poverty
- Noah Kinney (American, 1912-1991)
- The Kinney Band (left to
- Ann Mary on Fiddle
- Kathy Lee on Mandolin
- Rose Marie on Electric Guitar
- ca. early 1980s
- Wood, cloth, found objects
- Funds provided by Mrs. Donna S. Hall, 1992.30.1-3
- Noah Kinney, along with his older brother, Charley, lived
on the family farm outside of Vanceburg, Kentucky for their entire lives.
Both were regionally known for their music, Charley was a fiddler, and
Noah played guitar. A heart attack forced Noah to retire from farming,
and he began working in wood, making both small and large-scale carvings.
His carvings included detailed tools and farm implements, models of farm
machines and buildings, portraits U.S. Presidents, and sculptures of animals.
- Kinney also made these life-size Nashville musicians
clothed in his wife's old dresses and jewelry; holding instruments, and
even equipped with an amplifier -- all carved by Noah. Notice the details,
such as Ann Mary's painted toe nails, and Kathy Lee's and Rose Marie's
- Linvel Barker (American, 1929-2004)
- Basswood, 1994
- Museum Purchase, 1994.62
- Linvel Barker left Kentucky as a young man and traveled
extensively around the US. He and his wife Lillian settled in Northern
Indiana sometime in the 1950s, where he worked as a skilled maintenance
technician at a steel mill. In the mid-1980s Linvel retired and returned
to his wife's home community of Isonville, Kentucky. At the urging of folk
artist and neighbor Minnie Adkins, Linvel began carving wood, concentrating
mostly on animals. His graceful creations are easily identified by their
streamlined shape, their thin, delicate legs and by the fine, smooth finish
he gave the blond, unpainted basswood. Notice the detail of the camel's
knees; highlighted with insets of darker wood.
- Jimmy Lee Sudduth (American, 1910-2007)
- Monument, ca. 1985-1986
- Mud, sugar on Luan
- Gift of Ramona and Millard Lampell, 1988.47.3
- Sudduth was born in Caines Ridge, Alabama, and adopted
by the Sudduth family when he was very young. His adoptive parents were
itinerant farmhands, and they moved around often. He began painting as
a small child, however his formal education ended sometime in elementary
school. He never learned to read or write.
- He became well known for the effects he could produce
with his own homemade paint, which consisted of mud blended with a variety
of common substances, including sugar, coffee grounds, soot, and axle grease
(among many other ingredients) which gave the work color and texture.
He became a connoisseur of dirt, and it is said that he could locate mud
in 36 different shades.
- He never used a brush, but rather painted with his fingers.
When asked why in an interview quoted in the catalogue of one of his exhibitions,
he said, "I paint with my finger 'cause that's why I got it, and that
brush won't wear out...when I die, the brush dies."
- Painted on scrap lumber, sheet metal, and most commonly
on plywood, his art depicts everyday life in Alabama; houses, people, farm
animals, and his dog, Toto. He also, however, painted faraway places such
as Washington D.C. landmarks, and New York City skyscrapers. His works
were first exhibited formally in the 1960s and became popular during the
folk art boom of the 1980s.
- Howard Finster (American, 1916-2001)
- Eli Whitney: Building Trussels Around Our Early Inventer
- Paint, wood
- Museum Purchase and partial Gift of Larry Hackley, 2003.5
- Reverend Herman L. Hayes (American, 1923-2012)
- The Family, 1985
- Funds provided by Raymond J. and Susan M. Hage
- Endowment Fund, 1989.77
- Powell "Baltimore Glassman" Darmafall
- (American, b. 1925)
- Grim Reaper, n.d.
- Glass shards, board, glue
- Museum Purchase, 1998.7
- Melvin. A. Booth (American, 1904 -1967)
- Street Scene
- oil on canvas board
- Gift of Mr. M. A. Booth, 1965.5
- Booth was the proprietor of a small grocery store in
Guyandotte, West Virginia. Between customers he worked on his paintings,
and when finished they hung in the store and were available for purchase.
His subject matter ranged from nostalgic rural scenes, personal memories,
and news events. Street Scene features a wide boulevard full of pedestrians,
horse and carts, and long blocks of severe brick buildings. Central to
the work, and a characteristic found in many of his paintings, is a long
view with a central vanishing point which leads to a large, elaborate,
important building. One of M.A. Booth's paintings won second place in the
1965 juried "180" Exhibition at the Huntington Museum of Art.
This work is one of seven currently held in the permanent collection.
- Unidentified Artist (American)
- Bird Klock (sic), 1932
- Wood, paint, mirror
- Museum Purchase, 1978.109
- This intricate, non-functioning "coo-coo" clock
and mirror is constructed in a style known as "tramp art." Utilizing
scrap wood often from cigar boxes, these decorative objects were crafted
by layering notched pieces of wood, thus creating ornate, multi-dimensional
surfaces. This work features a bird, traditionally found in "coo
coo" clocks, however this one is accompanied by an additional bird,
a dog, and a cat placed in a series of niches. Carved at the base is "MADE
1932 BECCO WVa."
- Tramp art was most prevalent during the years of the
Great Depression (1929-early 1940s), and has since become highly collected.
- Mance Brown (American, 1869-?)
- Cane, 1940
- Funds provided by Ninth Annual Benefit Antiques Show
- Mose(s) Earnest Tolliver (American, ca. 1920 - 2006)
- Untitled , ca. 1984
- Paint on plywood
- Gift of Ramona and Millard Lampell, 1988.47.1
- Born one of 12 children to African-American sharecroppers
near Montgomery, Alabama, Tolliver became known as "Mose T" after
the signature on his paintings (signed with a backward "s").
In the 1960s, Tolliver started painting to fight off boredom after a severe
injury to his legs. Using materials at hand (house paint and plywood) he
painted whimsical, floating animals, humans and flora, always painting
a "frame" around the work. His work can be found in museums and
private collections across the country.
- Carlton Garrett (American, 1900-1992)
- Go Round, 1981
- Wood, metal, paint
- Gift of Mr. Robert B. Egelston, 1991.46.6
- Carlton Garrett's magnificently hand-carved, whimsical,
mechanical sculptures portray everyday events. Born in Gwinnett County,
Georgia, Garrett moved to Flowery Branch in 1924. He was an ordained minister,
and also ran the town's waterworks and worked as a furniture salesman.
He began whittling small toys in the 1940s, and by the time he retired
in 1962 he had created several motorized scenes portraying sites around
- Oscar L. Spencer (American, 1908-1993)
- Bird Walking Stick, ca. 1981-1982
- Wood, paint
- Gift of Mr. Robert B. Egelston, 1991.46.26
- Edd Lambdin (American, b. 1935)
- Baby Monkey Seated with Snake, 1991
- Wood, paint
- Museum Purchase, 1993.32
- A native Kentuckian, Lambdin supported himself as a carpenter.
He began making objects around 1980, both for his own amusement and as
gifts for family members. Walks in the wood provide materials for his monkeys,
snakes and lizards. His wide-eyed, brightly painted animals host grimacing,
sharp-teethed expressions, and often wear shoes and hats.
- Martin Cox (American, dates unknown)
- Cane, 1992
- Wood, paint
- Museum Purchase, 1994.7
- Unidentified Artist (American)
- The Soldier's Return, ca.
- Oil, wax on cotton pillow ticking
- Gift of Mrs. Richard K. Van Zandt, 1978.79
Tim Lewis (American, b. 1952)
- Man in the Moon, 1993
- Carved sandstone
- Museum purchase, 1993.33
- Gerald C. "Creative" DePrie (American, 1935-1999)
- His Majesty's Ship, 1992
- Color pencil on paper
- Museum Purchase, 1992.31
- In the first half of the twentieth century, the French
artist Jean Dubbuffet formed a collection of "raw art" by street
people, hermits, factory workers, housewives, psychiatric patients, and
children. He said of his beloved "Art Brut" collection "Art
is at its best when it forgets its very name."
- Dubuffet would have been a big fan of the art created
by self-taught artist Gerald C. "Creative" DePrie. Using mostly
colored pencils and ball-point pen, DePrie drew figures, objects from history
(such as this ship, or Egyptian Pyramids), and classic novels, buildings
and townscapes, using his memory and his imagination. The artist lived
in Huntington most of his life except for a short time in Newport, Kentucky,
and a stint in the Navy.
- Ronald Cooper (American, b. 1931)
- A Wall of Hell, 1989
- Wood, paint
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Vogele, 1994.36
- Jessie Farris Cooper (American, b. 1932)
- Wall Cupboard, 1988
- Wood, paint
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John R. Hall, 1989.43
- Husband and wife, the Coopers began making art after
Ronald was involved in a serious auto accident that crushed his legs. Scenes
from the Bible, and conflicts between good and evil dominate their work.
Both artists incorporate written messages into their compositions; serious
and humorous statements. They often paint on used furniture and found
- Norman Scott "Butch" Quinn (American, 1939-2006)
- Glitter Gertie, n.d.
- Acrylic, glitter
- Museum Purchase, 1994.57
- Willie Massey (American, 1910-1990)
- Crossing Over, 1986
- Mixed media
- Museum Purchase, 1994.60
- Kentucky born Massey began creating sculptures and paintings
after his wife's death in 1955. He is well known for his colorful, multilevel
birdhouses made from old fruit crates; tinfoil birds; and his airplanes.
In this piece, figures made of tin foil and painted black hold paddles
and fishing poles. The title of this ambitious work, Crossing Over suggests
multiple meanings. It may be a religious reference to someone "crossing
over" from a physical existence on earth to a spiritual existence
in Heaven. However it could also be an historical reference, for as an
African American artist, Massey may be referring to the "middle passage"
the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of people from Africa
were shipped to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade.
- Massey's work has been included in the exhibitions, "African-American
Folk Art in Kentucky," "Passionate Visions of the American South,"
and others. His work is in many permanent collections, including the Birmingham
Museum of Art, the Morris Museum of Art, and the Kentucky Folk Art Center.
- Carl McKenzie (American, 1905-1998)
- Noah's Ark, ca. 1987
- Carved and painted wood, paint, felt-tip pen
- Museum Purchase, 1996.20
- McKenzie, a native of Wolfe County, had whittled his
entire life. After retiring in 1961, he "just got to carving"
to combat the solitude while his wife was at work. His first Noah's Ark
was made for his wife in 1969 out of a shallow fruit crate. These "assemblages"
begin as a random array of full or fragmentary animals. By the mid-1980s,
McKenzie began to use inward facing birds, often the cardinal, the state
bird of Kentucky, as a pediment to the groupings of human and animal figure
below in a shadow box-like format.
- McKenzie used store-bought brushes to paint his carvings,
but often made his own by pounding the end of a stick until it frayed to
make a rough brush. With these twig brushes he would daub layer upon layer
of color, much like the abstract expressionist painters. He also used a
felt tip pen for details. From the mid-1980s on, his works became more
bold and colorful.
- Earl Gray (American, b. 1955)
- Untitled, 1998
- Carved sandstone
- Museum Purchase, 1998.2
- One of ten children born to the legendary local herbalist
"Catfish -- Man of the Woods," Earl Gray began carving faces
in wood in the 1980s. Growing up isolated on the family farm, Earl had
no exposure to art in his home., but rather made art for his own amusement
and to pass the time. Gray's work was brought to the attention of then
Curator at HMA, Eason Eige, by then Museum docent, Kate McComas. Eige
immediately saw the talent in Gray's work, and stated: "His work is
very personal. He is a genuine person, and it comes out in the work....
The isolation, I think, fueled his creativity....The work was coming from
within. There was no evidence of any outside influence."
- Eason began to promote Gray's work, and it caught the
attention of the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore, which included
Gray's work in its inaugural exhibition in 1995. While looking for firewood
in the woods around his home in the mid-1990s, Earl kept passing this large
sandstone boulder. He used his tractor to drag the stone to his studio,
and thus he began carving faces in stone such as the one on view here.
In 2003 the Huntington Museum of Art commissioned Earl to carve seven
stones along the 1 mile nature trail on the Museum's property. Walk the
trails and you can see more of Earl's work -- "in situ."
- Earnest Patton (American, b. 1935)
- Eason and Lillie Mae, 1978
- Wood, paint
- Gift of G. Eason Eige, 2006.2.2
- Like Edgar Tolson and Carl McKenzie, Patton is a native
of Wolfe County, Kentucky. He has been carving since the 1960s, but also
continued to work as a subsistence farmer and drive a school bus to support
his family. Patton uses mostly a pocket knife for carving, yet is able
to obtain a highly refined, smooth finish. More than any of the other
carvers from the "Campton School," Patton's subjects are taken
from everyday life.
- This work is a portrait of former HMA Curator Eason Eige
and his pug dog, Lillie Mae. Through Applachian folk art dealer/gallery
owner, Larry Hackley, Eason befriended many of the Appalachian folk artists
in the 1980s and early 1990s. Eige was instrumental in forming HMA's folk
- Denzil Goodpaster (American, 1908-1994)
- Hell Cat, 1987
- Wood, paint
- Gift of G. Eason Eige in memory of Dan SIlosky, 2006.2.1
- Reverend Anderson Johnson (American, 1915-1998)
- Jesus of Nazareth, 1992
- House paint on wood
- Museum purchase, 1992.46
- The son of a share cropper, Anderson Johnson began preaching
at a young age, spending much of his life preaching to congregations in
churches, and on street corners throughout America. He was also an accomplished
musician and composer. After an accident in 1985, Johnson moved to Newport
News, Virginia, where he converted his house into a church he called "Faith
Mission." Johnson covered the walls (and any flat surface) with hundreds
of paintings; portraits of women, Jesus Christ, and past Presidents of
the United States.
- This large-scale portrait of Jesus Christ was hanging
on the front of "Faith Mission" and was purchased directly from
the artist. Unfortunately his church/house was demolished in 1993 for an
urban renewal project, however many of his murals inside the church have
- Unidentified Artist (American)
- Huntington Tumbler Company
- Parade Cane, ca. 1920-1932
- Gift of Dr. and Mrs. B.H. Willet, 1994.26
- Unidentified Artist (American)
- Huntington Tumbler Company
- Parade Cane, ca. 1915-1930
- Museum Purchase, 1993.12
- Unidentified Art (American)
- Pilgrim Glass Corporation
- Parade Cane, ca. 1949-1981
- Gift of Betty Woods Daniel, 1981.174.4
- Often, at the end of a day's work, glassmakers used leftover
materials to form glass canes and other whimsies. These fragile works were
not used for walking, but rather displayed a glassblower's skill and creativity.
The canes were hung as decoration, sometimes bartered for beverages at
the local bar, or used in street parades.
- This one made of a solid color was created at Pilgrim
Glass Corporation, once located in Ceredo, West Virginia and in business
from 1949-2002. In 1968 the company began making cranberry glass, becoming
the world's largest producer of cranberry glass.
- Minnie Adkins (American, b. 1934)
- Quilt, 1992
- Funds provided by Mrs. Richard Van Zandt, Mrs. Nancy
Jane Bolton, and Mrs. Caroline Windsor in honor of Minnie Adkins, 1994.2
- Known primarily for her carved and brightly painted animal
sculptures (see the bright orange fox in the front corner of the gallery),
eastern Kentucky artist Minnie Adkins has also made paintings, quilts and
designs for cameo glass vessels. Her animal sculptures have inspired her
quilt designs. At first the artist depended on friends and neighbors to
sew and finish the quilt tops, however in 1990 she acquired a sewing machine
and has since done the quilting herself.
- Early quilts from 1989 featured repeated designs of a
single animal. In this quilt she has used flowered fabric to cut-out the
shape of her iconic rooster sculpture, attached them to an off-white square,
each bordered in a bright red fabric accentuated with yellow squares at
each corner. In the upper left and right squares are fabric portraits of
Minnie and her first husband Garland on a green background. At first the
artist depended on friends and neighbors to sew and finish the quilt tops,
however in 1990 she acquired a sewing machine and has been doing the quilting
- A 1991 exhibition at HMA presented quilts by Minnie
Adkins and Mississippi artist Sarah Mary Taylor.
- Earl Gray (American, b. 1955)
- Untitled, 1994
- Graphite and color pencil on wood
- Gift of Eason Eige, 2009.2.2
- In 1996, Gray, best known for his face carvings in wood
and stone, began making drawings on wood when extreme back pain landed
him in the hospital. During his recuperation period he states "I
just started drawing on the wood finding the same kind of faces that I
would find in my other carvings.... "The difference is that now I
am adding, and not subtracting to the surface." Earl's wife Barbara
bought him some colored pencils and he continued drawing elaborate faces,
some in profile, some frontal, some a combination of both. Many use meandering
tree limbs and vines to give shape to his faces and heads. Many incorporate
small detailed vignettes with views of of hills, valleys, volcanoes and
other dream-like imagery.
Resource Library readers may
and biographical information on artists cited in this essay
in America's Distinguished Artists,
a national registry of historic artists.
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institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Huntington
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