Steve Ashby


was born in Delaplane, in Fauquier County, Virginia. Except for a brief stint as a waiter at a hotel in nearby Marshall, he spent most of his life working on the farmwhere his father and several earlier generations of his family had been slaves. When he was in his late twenties, he married Eliza King, an older woman who worked asa cook at a girl’s boarding school, and they set up housekeeping in a previously abandoned one-room schoolhouse. They had no children, but adopted and raised ason.Ashby had occasionally made small carvings since his childhood, but after his wife’s death in 1960, and his subsequent retirement, he began to make the slapdash,figural sculptures that he called “fixingups,” which came to populate his house and yard. Pieced together largely from scraps of timber and lumber that he modified witha saw and augmented with paint, old clothing, cut-out images from magazines, and various found objects, these representations of people and animals are lively,expressionistic, humorous, and in many cases erotically charged. In addition to making individual figures and groupings of them, Ashby also made kinetic, wind-activated “whirligigs,” some of which depict sexual couplings.
See also
African American Folk Art (Vernacular Art); Whirligigs
Arnett, Paul, and William Arnett, eds.
Souls Grown Deep: AfricanAmerican Vernacular Art of the South,
vol. 1 Atlanta, Ga., 2000.Klein, Mason. “Steve Ashby,” in
Self-Taught Artists of the Twentieth Century: An American Anthology.
edited by Elsa Longhauser, et al. New York: Museum of American Folk Art, 1998.Livingston, Jane, and John Beardsley.
Black Folk Art in America, 1930–1980.
Jackson, Miss. and Washington, D.C., 1982