Nashville — “Hattie Duncan: African American Folk Sculptor” opened July 31, 2014 at the Tennessee Arts Commission’s gallery and will remain through September 19, 2014. Duncan’s expressive sculpture offers a loving, humorous portrayal of her hometown community in Jackson, Tennessee.
The daughter of a sharecropper who “was always sketching, painting and doodling” in his spare time, Duncan notes that her father “was a folk artist, but we didn’t know that’s what it was called back then.”
Taking after her father, Duncan began to create sculpture in 1997. She makes her own paper clay from shredded newspaper, white glue and water mixed up in a blender. Using common household items, she builds the frames for her pieces out of wire hangers, plastic bottles and old stockings. After molding the figures, she adds texture and detail by applying coffee grounds for hair, pine cones for hats, and broken egg shells for clothing. Many of her pieces are portraits of actual people, but she never knows who they are going to end up being until she has already commenced molding.
“It starts to look like somebody,” she observes. “I don’t know who it is until it’s finished.”
Duncan first shared her unique sculpture with the public at the University School of Jackson’s Bruins Arts Festival, where attendees raved about it. She has since exhibited at the West Tennessee Regional Arts Center, the Bank of Jackson, and local festivals and art fairs. She is featured in a “Creative License” segment, a television series on Tennessee artists, which aired for the first time on Nashville Public Television in July, 2014.
The Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery is located at 401 Charlotte Avenue in downtown Nashville and is open to the public Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.