Charlie Fields, better known locally as “Cedar Creek Charlie” or “Creek Charlie,” was an eccentric bachelor who lived with his mother on the family’s tobacco farm. After his mother’s death in the 1930s, he began the decorating and building projects that occupied his spare moments for the remainder of his life.
Fields completely repainted his house several times in various patterns including checker board, wavy lines, and stripes. His favorite pattern was polka dots, which covered all furnishings, including the coal stoves, bed, walls, and floors inside. His preferred color scheme—red, white, and blue—reflected his patriotic nature. Outside, whirligigs, model planes with doll passengers, a suspension bridge over a creek, and a ferris wheel were similarly decorated. The interior decoration also included collages made with cutouts from mass-produced imagery, and the exterior was illuminated year round by Christmas lights. On Sunday afternoons, Fields welcomed visitors, especially children, into his home and amusement park-likeyard while dressed in his suit, shoes, and hat—all painted with polka dots.
The environment included his only known carving, Set-up with Musicians and Dancers, [SAAM 1986.65.244; 1986.65.243; and 1986.65.381] incorporating stereotypical African-American paper dolls. The taller standing figure originally held a banjo. The articulated dancing figures on the miniature platform resemble traditional “Dancing Jacks” whittled in the Southern Highlands.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)