expression . sculptor . bessie harvey


Bessie Harvey with one of her sculptures


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Something Out of Nothing



Bessie Harvey

Bessie Harvey was born in 1929 in Dallas Georgia and died in 1994 in Alcoa, Tennessee. She was a folk sculptor who created powerful, sometimes grotesque figures from tree branches and roots. She once said that her clay pieces and masks portrayed souls. Her paintings depicted faces of the tormented to African kings and queens. Bessie had a vision, a gift. She could close her eyes and see things others couldn't. Bessie achieved star status with collectors for her powerful and mysterious works. Some scholars in the field of black studies believe that her style had African and/or voodoo origins. Bessie was the first self taught artist to be included in the Biennial of the Whitney Museum in New York since Edgar Tolson was selected for the show in 1973. And her work has been included in just about every African American show since 1990. Since her death collectors are in search of her work.


Cycle of Life Eyes of the Earth Creation is a Burst of Color



New Shoes for Christmas


Bessie Harvey    MORE
Harvey was a self-taught artist who sought out and embellished pieces of found wood, tree roots, and household objects to create small narrative scenes depicting biblical heroes as well as the lives of African Americans.
Something Out of Nothing
Born Bessie Ruth White on October 11, 1929, in Dallas, Georgia, Harvey was the seventh of 13 children born to Homer and Rosie Mae White. Of her adverse circumstances, the artist once observed, "The story of my life would make Roots and The Color Purple look like a fairy tale.
Chill My Body Not My Soul There was nothing. In the morning, you'd just get up, go looking for whatever you could find, and if you had one meal that day, then you'd made progress." To make matters worse, Harvey's mother was an alcoholic and her father died when she was a child. While drawing strength from her mother's strong Christian faith, the artist found additional comfort in her own ability to give shape to her visions using her hands and ordinary objects. "I was always finding ways of making something out of nothing when I was little. I'd find some old box and make us an old-timey car. I'd put two tin cans in front and two in back, and we'd sit in it and go off places. All kinds of places. I think it was God's way of making us happier children." This theme of escape would reappear prominently in her art some 50 years later.