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Yielding to the Ancestors While Controlling the Hands of Time

ca. 1992 Lonnie Holley Born: Birmingham, Alabama 1950 oil on wood and metal 108 1/2 x 59 1/2 x 21 3/4 in. (275.6 x 151.1 x 55.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of William Arnett 1993.1.3 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, West Wing

Gallery Label

“I travel around to see,” the artist Lonnie Holley explains. “It’s like walking back in time, to walk along the ocean, the beach, to walk in the sand. I am not trying to find my own footsteps in the sand, but to put my own footsteps where my ancestors might have stepped.”

Holley sees himself as a link connecting his ancestors—brought to America as slaves—to future generations. He explains that he gave this sculpture two heads; one is earthly, the other spiritual. “As we develop our personness, we learn to yield to the ancestors and the history of learning, we develop that inner head, that second head, the keeper head; the embankment of all wisdom.” 



Allegory - time

Object - art object - sculpture

sculpture - assemblage

folk art


paint - oil


About Lonnie Holley

Born: Birmingham, Alabama 1950

More works in the collection by
Lonnie Holley