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Old Dominion University

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This is a free event.

Folk-Art Collection Spotlight

Gordon Art Galleries
Gordon Art Galleries Atrium
Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 4:00 PM (ET)

On View through May 8, 2021

This rotating, single-object exhibit features artwork selected and researched by Graduate Student Assistants studying the permanent collection at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries. Students curate the exhibit from the ground up to highlight the collection and to share their research interests while in the ODU Institute for the Humanities graduate program. 


William A. Flowers
is an American self-taught folk-art potter from the Appala­chian Mountains of North Carolina. Flowers is well respected as a Southern folk artist specializing in face jugs. Flowers's work has been exhibited in the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries. His tremendous artistic talent is a family affair as William's wife Erma Jo and their son William Avril also create face jugs as accomplished potters. The process involves hand throwing the clay mixture on a potter's wheel to create the jug, and then adding the face and other elements. 

The Devil Face Jug (1999) was purchased by the Gordons in 2000 and exemplifies the style and expertise of southern folk-art potters. Over the years, William has developed a recognizable style of portraying individual personalities on his face jugs and human and animal figures. The origins of the anthropomorphic face jug, a folk tradition among African American potters in the South, remain unclear, although some of the earliest examples date to South Carolina in the 1840s, and others point to the tribes Mangbetu or Zaire and their figurative vessels and ritual artifacts. 

The typical vessel is a jug, formed in the shape of a head complete with eyes, ears, and mouth, the latter often adorned with a set of jagged white teeth made of kaolin or even shards of discarded porcelain plates. Glazes vary greatly, from a brown Albany slip and runny green alkaline shades to tan-brown "tobacco spit" Southern stoneware was glazed in yet another manner. As early as 1820, potters in North and South Carolina began to employ a mixture of wood ash, clay, and sand to produce ain alkaline glaze similar to what had been employed in Asia for generations. This dripped glaze was typically olive or brown in color, but the addition of slaked lime could produce a gray-green or yellowish hue, while further variations in color and texture could be achieved by adding salt, cinders, or ground glass.


Holli M. Turner was a Graduate Research Assistant and Graphic Designer at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries from 2018-2020. Her research con­centration is 16th century Italian Renaissance Art History. She accepted admission and a multi-year assistantship at The Pennsylvania State University. She currently is in the PhD program studying Italian Renaissance Art at Penn State in the Department of Art History.

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