PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Barnes Foundation's latest exhibition highlights how American sculptor William Edmondson carved out his place in the world, literally.
Nancy Ireson and James Claiborne co-curated the exhibition.
"We really wanted to show the breadth and scope of what Edmondson saw. We know that he started to make work because he felt that he'd been called by God," says Ireson.
The exhibition is titled, William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision.
"It's the first time in more than 20 years that visitors will get a chance to experience the incredible work of one of America's most important Black sculptors," she says.
Edmondson worked at a Nashville hospital before turning to carving.
Claiborne says that Edmondson claimed he had "a vision" before he began sculpting.
"He would see a tombstone in the sky and use that as inspiration to begin carving tombstones for his surrounding African American community," he says.
In 1937, Edmondson became the first Black artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
"We are hoping to expand the curiosity and the enthusiasm around Edmondson's work," says Claiborne.
Over 60 works are on display.
"He would carve the people of his community; preachers, school teachers, nurses. He also had a lot of religious iconography that he was drawn to," says Claiborne.
Edmondson was also inspired by the natural environment, sculpting many animals.
"He has an incredible sense of materials," says Ireson.
She also adds that Edmondson was able to achieve "so much complexity" in his work.
Claiborne says that as Edmondson became more confident in his work, he carved in more inventive ways.
"There's a little bit of whimsy in Edmondson's work that will be delightful and attractive to audiences of all ages," he says.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to broaden our vision of art in the early 20th century," says Ireson.
She adds that Edmondson's work should be celebrated for what it is, "the work of an extraordinary artist."
William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision is on view now through September 10 at the Barnes Foundation.
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