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June 2011

North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, NC, Features Retrospective by Leroy Person

North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, NC, is presenting the exhibit, Visionary Carvings: Retrospective Art Exhibition of Leroy Person (1907-1985), on view in the Four Sisters Gallery, through Dec. 11, 2011.

A lifelong resident of Occoneechee Neck, Garysburg, NC, Person never went to school and never learned to read or write. As soon as he was big enough to hold a hoe, he went to work as a sharecropper in the cotton fields and during World War II worked in a sawmill until retirement. When his health failed him from work-related asthma, he was forced to retire in 1970, but as a working man all his life, he continued to busy himself daily, turning a pastime hobby of whittling into an artistic obsession until he died.

Person started by carving the fence around his yard and the door and windows around his house; odd carvings were suspended from the trees in his yard as well. A sympathetic friend Ivette Bell noticed, recognized his talent, and bought carvings from him. Cary Bell, Ivette’s son awakened collector Robert Lynch to Person’s carved and crayon embellished world of figurines, wall plaques and furniture made from scrap and swampwood. Lynch collected countless pieces of Person’s work; some he sold in New York City and some he kept in his personal collection which he later sold to NC Wesleyan College.

Person’s work is recognized world-wide as both unique and remarkable in the field of American folk art. His capacity to carve tiny things that exude a monumentality is rare, and a significant artistic achievement. One of Person’s visitors in the 80’s, Paul Bridgewater, was told by the artist that living close to Occoneechee Swamp, he felt sure that God wanted him to reveal the overlooked connection between tiny living things and the great things in the world. From tiny wild twig carvings to all-over carved subdivisions and patterning of full-scale chairs and “thrones”, Person’s “world-view” and “mission” were indeed connected and made evident through what he made.

This retrospective includes eighty-six pieces of Person’s life’s work as an artist covering the full gamut of expression from the tiniest of twig carvings to the most massive pieces of furniture he fashioned.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call Everett Adelman at 252-985-5268 or e-mail to (director

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