Jim Colclough


(Suh) (1900–1986)
was a carver who learned to use woodworking tools in his father’s blacksmith shop. He did not begin to actively carve until 1961, when his wife, Marian, died. Hiswitty, sometimes irreverent carvings often carried messages meant to satirize human foibles. He also intended to surprise the viewer by devising a system using a crank to activate some of his carvings. Over the course of more than twenty years, Colclough completed several hundred sculptures. His subjects were drawn from his earlymemories of people and happenings, carnival life, folk tales, classical mythology, current events, and religion.Colclough was inspired to carve a portrait of Harry Truman when he learned that he was distantly related to the U.S. head of state. A full-figured rendition of thethirty-third president is outfitted in the uniform of an artillery captain in World War I, a rank Truman held. Truman thumbs his nose at the viewer and the world when acrank in the statue’s base is turned. Colclough finished the carving with linseed oil and took special care to lace Truman’s high boots with copper wire.Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Colclough moved with his family to Sallisaw, Oklahoma. He operated a garage and was a car dealer for many years, but when hisagency failed during the Great Depression, Colclough began to work for carnivals in many capacities, including building and “operating kiddy rides, mug joints, and sideshows.” Following his retirement from carnival life after more than ten years in the business, he settled near Hearst Castle in California. When the adobe house he builtwas condemned to make room for a freeway, he moved with his wife to Westport, a logging center in northern California.After his wife’s death Colclough began to carve, using the redwood logs that washed up on the beaches near his home. Most of his carvings were finished withlinseed oil, but a few were painted. A polychromed wedding portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, inspired by a photograph, is a Colclough masterpiece. Theelegantly groomed couple appears solemn and impassive at the event, that captured the world’s attention in 1937. The artist’s special interest in the subject came fromhis belief that he was related to Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.The collector David Davies discovered Colclough’s work in a gallery in Fort Bragg, California, in the 1960s. The Mendocino Art Center in Mendocino, California,organized a one-man exhibition of Colclough’s carvings in 1986.
See also
Hartigan, Lynda Roscoe.
Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art.
Washington, D.C., 1990.Horwitz, Elinor Lander.
Contemporary American Folk Art.
Philadelphia, and New York, 1975.Kaufman, Barbara, and Didi Barrett.
A Time to Reap: Late-Blooming Folk Artists.
South Orange, N.J., 1986.Larsen-Martin, Susan, and Lauri Martin.
Pioneers in Paradise: Folk and Outsider Artists of the West Coast.
Long Beach, Calif., 1984.Oakland Museum Art Department.
Cat and Ball on a Waterfall: 200 Years of California Folk Painting and Sculpture.
Oakland, Calif., 1986.