Noah Oliver Kinney


made drawings in pencil for many years before he began making sculpture, in about 1970. His parents were subsistence farmers, and Noah lived on the family farm hisentire life. His older brother, Charley, was a fiddler, and Noah played guitar. Both were regionally known for their music, which they played together.Kinney’s early works were small drawings in pencil and colored pencils to which he occasionally added oil paint. He drew animals and buildings, such as houses andchurches, mostly to please friends. Few of his drawings have survived.After recovering from a heart attack that forced his retirement from farming, Kinney began working in wood. He referred to his sculptures as “carvings,” although his process of woodworking involved many production steps. As his sculpturing evolved over the course of twenty years, his work changed, and eventually encompassedseveral different types of sculpture. His earliest sculptures were wooden replicas of tools from his childhood on the farm, including various axes, a froe, a hay cradle,and other tools. His detailed models of early vehicles and machines from farm life, including a tractor, a tobacco warehouse truck, a steam-driven sawmill completewith lumber workers, and miniature full-figure portraits of several U.S. presidents, were his most complex works. While often asymmetrical with rough surfaces,Kinney’s attention to detail nevertheless is evident in these complicated constructions.Kinney also made life-size human figures, including a group of female Nashville musicians clothed in his wife’s old dresses and sporting real string instruments, butsculptures of animals were what he produced most often. Whether making a snapping turtle or a tiger, he typically started by laminating two two-inch thick boards,from which he roughed out the outline of the various parts with a jigsaw. He would then soften those lines with a pocketknife, assemble the piece, paint it, and add anynecessary wood shavings for a mane, whiskers, and other details. Noah Kinney is important as a highly creative, rural folk artist. His own life was essentially traditional, yet his art transformed traditional techniques, to createcontemporary, idiosyncratic sculpture.

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