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Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

Folk and Self-Taught Art

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Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

Artwork Details


Bessie Harvey
American, 1929–1994


ca. 1990


Wood, paint, and plastic beads

Accession #



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Currently Not on View


Bessie Harvey was both a pious Christian who believed God worked through her and an animist who believed her art-making manifested spirits that already inhabited the wood she found and manipulated. This root sculpture is small, simple, and powerful. With a minimalist approach the artist turned found wood into a dramatic evocation of the biblical episode referred to in the title, using the roots of one stalk for the angel’s crackling hair and the bent stem of another for Jacob’s form, arching painfully backward. She added only small bits of plastic to suggest facial features, relying on minor manipulations to realize powerful forms.


Gift of Lynne and Jim Browne

Image Copyright

Photo by Michael McKelvey