Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections


ca. 1986 Bessie Harvey Born: Dallas, Georgia 1929 Died: Tennessee 1994 painted wood, beads, rhinestones, sequins, glitter and nail 9 1/2 x 35 3/4 x 17 7/8 in. (24.2 x 90.8 x 45.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase and gift of Estelle E. Friedman 1994.46 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, West Wing

Gallery Label

Bessie Harvey used branches, roots, and found objects to make sculptures that reflected her deep spirituality and spoke about the challenges she had faced. Harvey explained that her art came from her own struggle. She remembered her hunger during the Depression and making her own toys from twigs and branches as a child. Harvey married at fourteen and by age thirty-five had borne eleven children. “I didn’t really become human until my youngest was half-grown,” she explained, noting the intense struggle of providing for her children. Often painted black or dark brown, Harvey’s sculptures are raw and emotive. Her natural forms convey a view that God and nature are one and that her gift was the ability to make something from nothing.


Figure group - female and child

State of being - other - pregnant


folk art

glass - rhinestone

plant material - roots

readymade - beads