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The Soprano at the Mourning Easter Wake of 1968

1968 Daniel Pressley Born: Wasamasaw, South Carolina 1918 Died: New York, New York 1971 varnished walnut relief 35 1/4 x 18 x 1 in. (89.5 x 45.7 x 2.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment 1997.124.78 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, West Wing


Gallery Label

Daniel Pressley learned the art of wood carving when he was a boy, from his grandfather who was a former slave. In South Carolina during the first half of the twentieth century, African-American families lived under the pall of racism. Pressley moved to New York City in 1953, like many African Americans of the era, in search of a better life. He became deft at compressing profound moments of human emotion into tight, controlled carvings. This carving shows a singer at the wake for Martin Luther King Jr., just after he was assassinated in 1968. Her clasped hands and anguished expression evoke the widespread passion and grief over the death of a hero to black Americans.

Luce Center Label

Daniel Pressley believed fervently in the civil rights movement, which he experienced in New York in the 1950s and 60s. This carving shows a singer at the wake for Martin Luther King Jr. after his assassination in 1968. The figure’s clasped hands and anguished expression evoke the passion and grief that many people felt over the tragic death of a hero to black Americans.

Keywords

Ceremony - funeral

Ceremony - holiday - Easter

Ethnic - African-American

Figure female - waist length

History - United States - Civil Rights Movement

Homage - King, Martin Luther

Performing arts - music - voice

sculpture - relief

folk art

adhesive - pressure-sensitive tape

paint

paper

paperboard

wood - walnut

About Daniel Pressley

Born: Wasamasaw, South Carolina 1918 Died: New York, New York 1971

More works in the collection by
Daniel Pressley