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William Edmondson

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According to William Edmondson, the angels told him to begin making the tombstone statuary that's now gathered into an exhibition at the Museum of American Folk Art. And if you have a line to the angels, no other teacher is necessary. Using a hammer, a railroad spike, and blocks of limestone, Edmondson (1874- 1951) created a wonderful assortment of animals, birds, preachers, angels, and other notable divinities, such as Eleanor Roosevelt. The son of former slaves, Edmondson would carefully position his statues in the yard around his workshop in Nashville until they seemed comfortable. In the thirties and forties, photographers -- among them, Edward Weston -- depicted this divine menagerie, and the Museum of Modern Art gave him a show. Edmondson was a minimalist who did just enough to awaken stone, miraculously, to life. He had a gentle and observant wit. In Bess and Joe, the two slightly comical figures appear -- like certain married couples -- to have become one singular creature. His Angel With a Pocketbook, in turn, has a determined expression, serious hair, and wings as sturdy as the gates of Heaven. In her pocketbook -- which must also be the Book -- she is obviously bringing you the relevant news.


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