Dispatch (January 14, 1998): p.
“Elijah Pierce Carved a Niche in the Community and the World.”
Elijah Pierce was born in
Baldwyn, Mississippi, on March 5, 1892. He was the second youngest of nine
children born to Nellie and Richard Pierce -- a former slave. The community's
rural wooded setting provided the perfect environment for a future woodcarver
and Pierce, who was taught by his uncle Lewis Wallace, made his first carvings
of farm animals when he was 7. Lewis taught his nephew how to choose and work
with wood, and how to enjoy the art of carving.
Like most folk artists, Pierce
based his themes on his life and what was most familiar to him. His religious
belief and background is evident in many of his sculptures. In 1920, Mount Zion
Church of Baldwyn issued him a preacher's license. As a way to communicate his
messages, Pierce transformed blocks of wood into inspirational works of art.
Often, he would give a sculpture to someone he felt could benefit from it.
Pierce also based his carvings on his childhood, stories from his father's era
and sports heroes, such as Joe Louis. One of his favorite sayings was,
"Your life is in a book and every day is a page." Pierce demonstrated
his belief in that quote by filling his life with faith, art and dedication to
In 1923, Pierce moved to Columbus
where he lived until his death. He traveled during the 1930s and '40s to display
his works and maintained a barber shop on Long Street. During his spare time he
continued to carve, and by 1980, the barber shop became the Elijah Pierce Art
In the late '70s, Pierce began to
be recognized as a world-renowned artist. He won first prize at the
International Meeting of Native Art in Zagreb, Yugoslavia; was recognized by the
Ohio Arts Council with the Folk Art Award in 1975; was issued the first Honorary
Doctorate of Fine Arts from Franklin University in 1980, and in 1982, The
National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a National Heritage Fellowship.
Shortly after Pierce's death in
1984, the Elijah Pierce Gallery opened at the King Arts Complex to honor his
contribution to the world. He was a man of great faith, concern and he had pride
in his community.
Sources: Information for Culture
Creature was provided by the King Arts Complex, in cooperation with the Columbus
Arts Marketing Council.
Copyright 1998 The Columbus
REPRINTED, WITH PERMISSION, FROM THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH