Sylvia (Possum Trot Doll)
ca. 1953-1972 Calvin Black Born: Tennessee 1903 Died: Yermo, California 1972 Ruby Black Born: Georgia Died: Yermo, California 1980 carved and painted redwood with fabric, cord, and nails (figure seated): 30 7/8 x 16 3/8 x 21 3/4 in. (78.4 x 41.6 x 55.2 cm) (figure standing (without base)): 43 3/4 x 13 x 8 in. (111.2 x 33.1 x 20.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson 1986.65.233 Not currently on view
The Blacks opened a small rock shop and refreshment stand along the desert highway in California's Death Valley in 1953. Their property, affectionately named Possum Trot, became home to the Fantasy Doll Show. Calvin carved, Ruby dressed the dolls, and together they attached speakers to their backs that played original recorded songs and voices for each one.
Though Sylvia's dress has been tattered by the wind, weathering has not erased her features. She originally wore a hat and sat on a table beside a wind-driven, outdoor merry-go-round amid other whirligigs and roadside attractions. Like their other eighty creations, Sylvia possesses a distinct personality.
"This is a doll show for people who like art. Art, real art, this is it. Don't come in if you don't like Art."
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
Figure female - full length
fabric - cotton
metal - iron
metal - nails
wood - redwood