Folk sculptor Hattie Marshall Duncan uses paper clay, wire and other found-objects to produce sculptures that are humorous, affectionate and visually captivating. Calling the larger body of her work “Artwork from the Ship of Ophir,” Hattie’s sculptures are spiritually-inscribed idiosyncratic tributes to her family and the larger African American community in Jackson. The old adage “making something out of nothing” reflects the foundations of her craft. Her self-produced “paper clay” and scrap wire form the base for her sculptures. She uses other scrap items such as egg shells, coffee grounds and milk jugs to bring them to life.
Hattie first began making art out of everyday objects as a child, but she started practicing in earnest in the late 1990s. Since then, she has exhibited in many important Tennessee galleries, including at the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, the West Tennessee Regional Arts Center in Humboldt, the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, and the Latta in Selmer. In 2014, she exhibited in the Tennessee Arts Commission’s gallery.
Hattie’s apprentice is her daughter, Keesha Marshall-Reid. Keesha is an accomplished and respected nurse in Jackson and has observed her mother’s practice for many years. “My mother’s art is a memorial to our family and African Americans here in Jackson,” she says. “That needs to continue and I want to be the one to preserve it. I believe it is important to learn this art form because it is rare and it is by an African American female folk artist.”