Luce Foundation Center for American Art
Folk Art: Folk Reliefs: Glad You Dead You Rascal You
(born New Orleans, LA 1945)
"When the river was low, I would find a plank of wood to carve. I would look at it and wonder if someone's house and life fell apart." Herbert Singleton, quoted in Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia, 1990
Herbert Singleton grew up in New Orleans, sharing a two-room house with his parents and seven brothers and sisters. He attended school briefly, then went to work in a steel mill at the age of seventeen. He started carving in the 1970s, making canes to trade for drugs and to be used as weapons. A buggy driver once used a Singleton cane to hit a would-be robber and since then they have been known as "killer sticks" (Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia, 1990). Singleton carves reliefs from old doors, cabinets, and driftwood that illustrate his experiences of the drug culture of New Orleans.
Image Credits: Originally photographed by Chuck Rosenak. Image is courtesy of the Chuck and Jan Rosenak research material, 1990-1999, in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.