Jesse J. Aaron
49 3/4 in. x 8 in. x 4 3/4 in. (126.37 cm x 20.32 cm x 12.07 cm)
Medium and Support:
Carved wood and polyester resin
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase
Jesse Aaron was over the age of 70 when he began his career as a carver of wood, responding to what he described as Divine inspiration. He cut, prepared, and carved the wood, usually cedar or cypress, until his death at age 97. He derived his subjects—animal or human forms—from the wood itself. "God put faces in the wood. Don't bring me a piece of wood and ask me to carve something out of it. 'Cause I won't. Don't tell me what you want, it might not be there, you understand?"*
The MMFA carving is a totem-like assemblage of images: what appears to be a man on horseback (the man's head at the top, the horse's head in the middle), encountering an alligator. The artist began his figures using a chain saw to rough out the form and refined it with chisels and drills. The marks of the chisels are evident in this piece, and the resonance of an African sensibility for the materials and motif is very strong. Aaron was a native Floridian, part black and part Seminole Indian, and lived primiarly in Gainesville, Florida.
*"Black Folk Art in America," 1930-1980, 1982, p. 55.