6 of 73

Calvin and Ruby Black
about 1953–72
painted redwood with cloth
43 3/4 x 13 x 8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson

SYLVIA is one of more than eighty life-sized dolls created by Calvin and Ruby Black for "Possum Trot," the roadside environment they built in the Mojave Desert to attract customers to their rock shop and refreshment stand. Outdoor areas featured whirligigs, totem poles, and other curiosities. Calvin, a ventriloquist and former carnival worker, carved the figures from damaged redwood power poles, then animated and wired them for sound. Ruby contributed the costumes. SYLVIA, who originally wore a hat, sat on a table attached to one of several wind-driven, outdoor merry-go-rounds in "Possum Trot." Ruby replaced the figure's clothing at least once after it was torn and tattered by the wind.