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Lavern Kelley
Classroom with Three Figures
1979, 1984–87
painted white pine, plywood, brass, and plastic

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr.



A teacher explains a math lesson to two well-dressed students in this schoolroom tableau. Her serious expression and the pupils' clenched fists suggest that all is not well in this carefully carved scenario. Kelley, who lives on a farm in rural New York, had begun working on the scene before he was one of the first folk artists named as an artist in residence by New York state in 1986, which he described as "the biggest thing that ever happened to me."