Josephus Farmer began his public mission as an itinerant evangelical minister in St. Louis, where he received his “calling from God” in 1922. After his retirement in the late 1960s from jobs as varied as hog farmer and hotel porter, Farmer spent much time carving religious images that he sold to help finance his proselytizing journeys. Reverend Farmer painted several banners with images drawn from theological charts commonly used in the nineteenth century , which he used as preaching tools during his revival meetings. His relief carvings, usually executed in redwood painted with enamel, contain either images of American history or scenes from the Bible and often combine seemingly unrelated stories into one panel. Farmer selects biblical stories extemporaneously as he carves.
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)
Josephus Farmer described himself as worried, hungry, and sad at heart before he was baptized in the Apostolic Church in 1922. He became a street preacher and painted banners to support his teachings, traveling the country in an attempt to reach all those who had not found the truth. He opened a storefront church in Milwaukee in 1947 and worked a wide variety of jobs, including chauffeur, mechanic, and hotel porter. After he retired in the 1960s, he devoted his time to carving, creating sculptures and reliefs inspired by Old Testament heroes and American history. (Joanne Cubbs, The Gift of Josephus Farmer, 1982 and Major Work from Simple Preacher Man, Dean Jensen, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)