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Self-taught, Outsider, 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 and others. 

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," among others.

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 this gallery.


(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, ca. 1840
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 into art.
The two brothers rarely traveled far from their family farm,
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), 1984
Funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. G.B. Johnson, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Holbrook, and Eighth Annual Benefit Antiques Show Fund, 1985.81
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 for her.
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 history.
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 right):
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 glasses.
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 (sic)
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 his community.
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. 1865
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 objects.
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 art collection.
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 been saved.
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 herself.
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.

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