became nationally recognized as “The Gourd Lady” for her whimsical, imaginative gourd sculptures. She was also regionally known for the Minnie Black Gourd Band,an ensemble of senior citizens that played musical instruments she made from gourds. She began making sculpture about 1960, when she grew her first crop of gourds.She later became so well-known that she made guest appearances on national television on
The Tonight Show
David Letterman Show.
Black had made sculptures from the gourds she grew until the year before her death, at age ninetyseven, and growing and cultivating the gourds actually became anintegral part of her creative process. The various shapes of different gourds inspired certain forms in her creative imagination, but she also manipulated the growth of some of them. She tied one variety so that it would curl in a certain way as it continued to grow. She dug a hole in the ground beneath a long gourd hanging on the vineso that it could grow longer and remain straight. Harvested and dried, the gourds provided an eclectic selection of shapes that could be used as they were or cut outinto a desired shape. Often, she joined the parts of several different gourds together to portray a wide variety of subjects, including various animals, dinosaurs,monsters, and self-portraits.The parts of her earliest work were joined together and the cracks filled in with a modeling paste concocted from a special recipe, which she kept as her own closelyguarded secret. It is thought that the recipe included flour, because many of those pieces have, over the years, attracted insects. Holes bored by the insects haveappeared on the surface of many early Black sculptures. She seems to have overcome this problem with a commercial modeling medium that served as both filler andglue. Black displayed her artworks for public viewing in a store building adjacent to her home near East Bernstadt, Kentucky, which she called the “Gourd Museum.”Black broke new ground with her use of gourds as an artistic medium. The bold, imaginative, and whimsical forms she created remain a testimony to her extraordinarycreative drive.
Musical Instruments; Sculpture, Folk
Pictured in My Mind.
Birmingham, Ala., 1995.Yelen, Alice Rae.
Passionate Visions of the American South.
New Orleans, La., 1993