Artist Profile – Miles B. Carpenter
1889–1985, born in Pennsylvania; lived and worked in Waverly, Virginia
Miles Burkholder Carpenter’s diverse wood carving practice incorporates both time-honored techniques and a keen comic eye for the condition of modernity. Born in 1889 in Brownstown, Pennsylvania, a deeply traditional Pennsylvania Dutch community, the artist moved with his family to Waverly, Virginia, in 1901, where he remained for the remainder of his life. After working at his father’s sawmill through his youth, Carpenter struck out on his own at age twenty-three, first with his own lumber business (and forays into summer theater), and, beginning in 1955, as the proprietor of a roadside ice, beverage, and produce market.
Although he began making small carvings in the 1940s, Carpenter dedicated himself more seriously to his art in the 1960s, first in entrepreneurial spirit, to create signage for his store, and then in profound sadness, following his wife’s death in 1966. Many of his pieces stood in the flatbed of his truck next to his store (a building that still stands as a museum in honor of the artist). His subjects range from watermelon wedges, to farm animals and fantastic creatures, to portraits of family members and “Indians,” to appropriated advertising and pop cultural imagery. Always evident in his artwork is the playful sense of humor that also appears in his 1982 autobiography, Cutting the Mustard. Carpenter’s sculptures came to the attention of the mainstream art world in 1972.
Books and Catalogs:
Carpenter, Miles B. Cutting the Mustard. Tappahannock, VA: American Folk Art Company, 1982.
Miles Carpenter: A Retrospective, 1940-1982: Forty-Two Years of Fanciful Carving. Newport News, VA: The Peninsula Fine Arts Center, 1982.
Miles Carpenter: The Woodcarver from Waverly. Richmond, VA: Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1985.
One Hundred Miles: The 100th Anniversary of Miles Carpenter. Waverly, VA: The Miles B. Carpenter Museum, 1989.
Miles Carpenter: A Second Century. Radford, VA: Radford University, 1990.
Multi-Artist Books and Catalogs:
Hemphill, Herbert W., Jr., and Julia Weissman. Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists. New York: E.P.Dutton & Co., Inc., 1974.
Bishop, Robert. American Folk Sculpture. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1974.
Horwitz, Elinor Lander. Contemporary American Folk Artists. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1975.
Folk Art Traditions: Three Contemporary Masters. Washington, DC.: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 1990.
Hemphill, Herbert. Folk Sculpture USA. Brooklyn, NY: The Brooklyn Museum, 1976.
Dewhurst, C. Kurt, MacDowell, Betty and MacDowell, Marsha. Religious Folk Art in America: Reflections of Faith. New York: E.P. Dutton in association with the Museum of American Folk Art, 1983.
Johnson, Jay and Ketchum, William C. American Folk Art of the Twentieth Century. New York: Rizzoli, 1983.
A Time to Reap: Late-Blooming Folk Artists. South Orange, NJ: Seton Hall University/Museum of American Folk Art, 1985.
Muffled Voices: Folk Artists in Contemporary America. New York: Museum of American Folk Art, 1986
Outside the Mainstream: Folk Art in Our Time. Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 1988.
Rosenak, Chuck and Jan. Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists. New York. New York. Abbeville Press, 1990.
Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990.
Common Ground/Uncommon Vision: The Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1993.
Sellen, Betty-Carol, and Johnson, Cynthia J. 20th Century American Folk, Self Taught, and Outsider Art. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers. 1993.
Yelen, Alice Rae. Passionate Visions of the American South: Self-Taught Artists from 1940 to the Present. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art in association with University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1994.
Bishop, Robert and Atkins, Jacqueline M. Folk Art in American Life. New York: Viking Studio Books, 1996.
Tree of Life: The Inaugural Exhibition of the American Visionary Art Museum. Baltimore: American Visionary Art Museum, 1996.
Maizels, John. Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond. London: Phaidon Press, 1996.
Flying Free: Twentieth-Century Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Ellin and Baron Gordon. New York. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, 1997.
Let it Shine: Self-Taught Art from the T. Marshall Hahn Collection. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2001.
Patterson, Tom. Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. New York. Watson-Guptil Publications. 2001.
Point of View: American Folk Art from the William and Ann Oppenheimer Collection. Augusta, Georgia. Morris Museum of Art, 2004.
Brewster, Todd. “Fanciful Art of Plain Folk.” Life (June 1980): 112-122
Cherry, S. Thad, Jr. “Creations.” Folk Art Messenger 2, no. 3 (Spring 1989): 5
Gregson, Chris. “Miles Carpenter: The Man and His Art.” Folk Art Messenger 2, no. 3 (Spring 1989)
Hankla, Susan. “Retrieval – Art in the South.” Southern Exposure (May 1984): 44-46.
Kirwin, Liza. “Folk Art Resources at the Archives of American Art.” American Art Net Work: A Research Newsletter for Scholars of American Art and Culture (Smithsonian/National Museum of American Art) 4, no. 2 (September 1991): 9-11.
Oppenheimer, Ann. “Miles Carpenter, The Woodcarver from Virginia.” Raw Vision 5 (December 1991): 38-41
Select Solo Exhibitions:
Miles Carpenter: A Retrospective, 1940-1982: Forty-Two Years of Fanciful Carving. The Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, VA, 1982
Miles Carpenter: The Woodcarver from Waverly. Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, 1985.
Miles B. Carpenter. Hand Workshop, Richmond, VA, 1989
One Hundred Miles: The 100th Anniversary of Miles Carpenter. The Miles B. Carpenter Museum, Waverly, VA, 1989.
Miles Carpenter: A Second Century. Flossie Martin Gallery, Radford, VA, 1990.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, MA
Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, Farmville, VA
American Folk Art Museum, New York
Miles B. Carpenter Museum, Waverly, VA
INTUIT: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, IL
Compiled by Samantha Mitchell