HANCEVILLE, Ala. — The work of one of the nation’s most renowned folk artists is on display at The Evelyn Burrow Museum at Wallace State Community College. More than 90 pieces of artwork created by Mose Tolliver are on loan from the collection of Dr. R. Douglas Hawkins of Troy, Ala.
Mose Tolliver was born on July 4 around 1920 (the exact year of his birth is unknown) in Pike County, near Montgomery. He was one of 12 children born to sharecroppers and only completed the third grade of school. The family moved to Macedonia in Pickens County before eventually moving to Montgomery in the 1930s.
Tolliver married Willie Mae Thomas in the 1940s and the couple had 13 children, two of whom died in infancy. He worked many odd jobs in an effort to support his family. He didn’t seriously take up his art until after he was injured in a work accident in the 1960s. A half-ton crate of marble fell on him, preventing him from walking without the assistance of crutches for the rest of his life.
Though offered the opportunity to take art lessons, Tolliver declined, preferring to develop his own style. He placed his finished pieces in the yard outside of his home and sold them for a few dollars. The subject matters in his artwork range from nature with images of fruits and birds to his wife and even himself. He signed his work MoseT, with a backward s.
He used house paint as his medium of choice and painted on wood, metal, burlap, cardboard and other found materials. He would often use bottle caps as mounting brackets for his work.
Tolliver’s work has been featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the American Folk Art Museum in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Museum of Art and the American Visionary Art Museum of Baltimore.
Tolliver died in 2006 at the age of 86. The New York Times noted his death on the front page.
The MoseT collection is being paired with an exhibition of Jerry Brown Pottery. Brown is a ninth-generation potter from Hamilton, Ala., and operates the only known mule-powered pug mill in the United States. He and his mule, Blue, mix and grind the clay used to make his unique pieces of pottery.
Brown prides himself on making useful objects, still using many traditional techniques of the 19th century potters. His pottery is oven- and dishwasher-safe and his techniques produce tough, durable wares.
Best known for his “face jugs,” Brown’s work has been featured in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He was a participant in the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, and has been awarded the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Alabama Folk Heritage Award from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
In 2002, the Jerry Brown Arts Festival was created in his hometown of Hamilton, a juried arts festival, which continues today and has been recognized as a Top 20 event in the Southeastern U.S.
The Mose T and Jerry Brown exhibition is on display through July 2 in the Burrow Museum at Wallace State Community College. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 256.352.8457 or visit www.burrowmuseum.org.