Self-taught 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 eggshells, 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. In October of 2019, she received the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award in Folklife Heritage for her artwork.
Hattie’s apprentice is her grandson, William Reid. William has observed his grandmother’s practice for many years. “This is an important artwork in my family because it signifies how everyone is unique in their own personal way,” he explains. “This art form allows an individual to express their world with things that we would normally throw away. I believe it is important to pass along this artwork and craft for generations to come.”
Further Reading on Hattie Duncan:
- Duncan, Hattie. “African American Folk Sculptor on Exhibit.” Tennessee Arts Commission, July 31–September 19, 2014.
- Duncan, Hattie. “Interpreting the Familiar: The Art of Hattie Marshall Duncan.” Jostens Gallery. June 6–August 19, 2018.
- Marshall-Duncan, Hattie. “2019 TN Governor’s Arts Award, Folklife Heritage.” Recipient profile and short film. Tennessee Arts Commission.
- Pitts, Shawn. “The True Story Of Hattie Duncan- A Southern Original Short.” Ya’ll Magazine. February 3, 2020.
Further Reading on Self-taught, Vernacular Art:
- “Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art: Definitions of Art Styles,” This guide was designed to help begin research in the area of Folk Art, Outsider Art and Self-Taught Art including Southern Folk Art
- “Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art: Web Pages & Online Information,” extensive list of online resources from USC Upstate
- Allen, Margaret Day. When the Spirit Speaks: Self-Taught Art of the South. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, 2014.
- Arnett, Paul and William, eds. Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South. Atlanta: Tinwood Books, 2000.
- Boxer, Sarah. “The Rise of Self-Taught Artists,” The Atlantic, 2013. Cardinal, Roger. Outsider Art. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972.
- Carlano, Annie, ed. Vernacular Visionaries: International Outsider Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
- Crown, Carol, ed. Coming Home!: Self-Taught Artists, the Bible and the American South. Memphis: Art Museum of the University of Memphis, 2004.
- Hall, Michael D., and Eugene W. Metcalf, Jr., eds. The Artist Outsider: Creativity and the Boundaries of Culture. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.
- Herman, Bernard, ed. Thornton Dial: Works on Paper. Univ of North Carolina Press, 2011.
- Herman, Bernard L., ed. Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett. UNC Press Books, 2016.
- Horowitz, Elinor Lander. Contemporary American Folk Artists. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975.
- Laffal, Florence and Julius. American Self-Taught Art: An Illustrated Analysis of 20th Century Artists and Trends with 1,319 Capsule Biographies. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2003.
- Livingston, Jane, John Beardsley, and Regenia Perry. Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989.
- Padilla, Carmella. The Work of Art: Folk Artists in the 21st Century. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2013.
- Prince, Dan. Passing in the Outsider Lane: Art from the Heart of Twenty-One Self-Taught Artists. Boston: Journey Editions, 1995.
- Rexer, Lyle. How to Look at Outsider Art. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2005.
- Russell, Charles, ed. Self-taught art: the culture and aesthetics of American vernacular art. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2001.
- Sellen, Betty-Carol. Self-Taught, Outsider and Folk Art: A Guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016.
- Wojcik, Daniel. “Outsider Art, Vernacular Traditions, Trauma, and Creativity.” Western Folklore, vol. 67, no. 2/3, 2008, pp. 179–198. JSTOR.