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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Folk Art: Folk Painting: Acupuncture Pitchfork Style

John William ("Uncle Jack") Dey

(born Phoebus, VA 1912 -- died Richmond, VA 1978)

"When I'm finished with a painting . . . I go over the whole thing with a magnifying glass to see if anything's wrong. Sometimes a picture just doesn't look like it's level, and then I have to put something on to anchor it---something like a cow or a rabbit." John William Dey, 1975, quoted in "Life and Legend: Folk Paintings of 'Uncle Jack' Dey," Chris Gregson, Meadow Farm Museum/Crump Park, 1986

John William Dey grew up in Richmond, Virginia, but traveled to Maine as a young man to work as a trapper and logger. In the mid-1930s he returned to Richmond, where he eventually joined the police force. He was "on the beat" for almost thirteen years and earned the nickname "Uncle Jack" from the neighborhood children, whose toys and bicycles he often fixed (Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia, 1990). He started to paint after retiring from the police, using model airplane paint to create images inspired by childhood adventures, religion, and imagined exotic landscapes.

Image Credits: © 1995 Jeffrey Camp.