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Jim Colclough

Also Known as: "Suh Jim" Colclough

Born:
Fort Smith, Arkansas 1900

Died:
Westport, California 1986

Biography

Jim Colclough learned to use traditional Ozark Mountain woodworking tools as a child in his father's blacksmith shop. When he was sixty-two (after his wife had died, and he had retired), Colclough began to carve seriously, creating hundreds of figures from redwood logs he found washed up on the beach near his home in northern California. Before World War II, Colclough worked with carnival companies building and operating rides and attractions. Although he is best known for carvings that reflect the humor and clever kinetic movement of these animated scenes and figures, several of his works, such as this Crucifixion, [SAAM 1988.74.4] depict serious religious subjects. Colclough characterized his shifts between humorous and religious subjects as unconscious. He stubbornly refused to carve anything suggested by others and his methods were sometimes unorthodox. "To get the proper position of Christ hanging limp on the cross," he told a neighbor, "I drove two big spikes in the wall and I backed up to the wall—grasped a spike in each hand and then I'd go limp to get the correct pose. … I didn't have anything to go by for the face,—so I carved the face according to my own interpretation."

Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)