Totem

  • William Dawson, Totem, ca. 1975, ink, wood, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak, 1981.136.1

Luce Center Label

William Dawson carved stacks of faces from old table and chair legs before he even knew what a totem pole was. These pieces show his distinctive carved faces, with wide, staring eyes painted a stark white against different colored backgrounds. He made totems in a variety of heights depending on the piece of wood, and they can reach up to four feet.

Luce Object Quote

“I had never seen a totem. I was in the park one day. I was carving and a fellow came up and said, ‘Oh, you make totems.’ But I didn’t know what they were. My wife looked it up in a book in the library, and sure enough, I was making totems.” The artist, quoted in Folk Art Messenger, Winter 1990

Title
Totem
Artists
Date
ca. 1975
On View
Dimensions
13 x 3 1/8 in. (33.0 x 7.8 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak

Mediums
Classifications
Keywords
  • Object – art object – totem pole
  • Ethnic – African-American
  • Figure – fragment – face
Object Number
1981.136.1
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI