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Folk and Self-Taught Art

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Artwork Details


Bessie Harvey
American, 1929–1994




Wood, paint, and beads

Accession #



35 1/4 x 15 x 17 1/2 inches


On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 404


Born in Dallas, Georgia in 1929, Bessie Harvey was an artist with a profound respect for the natural world, whose branches and roots inspired her sculpture. She was a mother to eleven children, and as she struggled with one of her adolescent sons, art became a source of transcendence and self-expression.

When Harvey looked at tree fragments, she recognized their hidden spirit. “I discovered they’re alive, just like we are,” she said, adding, “The Lord showed me how to bring these faces out of these pieces of wood, so I could have somebody to talk to.”

One year after her death in 1994, her root sculpture was included in the Whitney Biennial of American Art, and a review of that exhibition in Artforum noted how her work came from the “same formal school of fractured fairy tales” as other contemporary artists in the Biennial, including Cindy Sherman and Nancy Rubin.


Gift of Gordon W. Bailey