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Olen Bryant

(1927-2017) born in Cookeville, TN and lived in Cottontown, TN
Mother and Child, 1970-1971
hand-carved wood, 55 x 16 x 6 inches, 74.11.2

Hand-carved wooden bowl, 1970
Wood, 5.5 x 59 x 14 inches, 70.36.43

Native Tennessean and sculptor, Bryant held undergraduate degrees in theater and art from Murray State College in Murray, KY and earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI. He also studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Institute in the Visual Arts in American Culture at the University of Delaware and the Winterthur Museum. In 1964 Bryant began teaching art at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN, retiring from is career in 1991. In 2007 he received the Tennessee Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award. He was a founding member of the Nashville Artist Guild and the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists, now Tennessee Craft.

Bryant’s work is in public and private collections throughout Tennessee including the Tennessee State Museum and Cheekwood Museum in Nashville, the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, and various other museums, libraries, and sites.

“Olen’s genius is his sensitivity to the regular flow of the grain and textures in the natural materials he uses. He follows them, listens to them, and lets them guide him instead of trying to reform them. All the figurative spirits or beings Olen’s work is known for are never imposed into the material, but revealed by the material. This is the legacy of Olen Bryant.” – Alan LeQuire, sculptor