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 Ulysses Davis  (1913 - 1990)

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Lived/Active: Georgia      Known for: naive wood carving-religious and portrait subjects

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Ad Code: 4
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from Auction House Records.
Multi-Gender Vampire Figure
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Knoke Fine Arts:
Ulysses Davis, an African-American carver, was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia in 1913. He lived in Savannah for more than 40 years.  In the 1950s he converted an out building into a barbershop.  Between customers, with a pocketknife he carved pieces of wood to express his personal interpretation of history, humanity and divinity.

“Whittlin,” as he called it, was for Davis, a life-long passion. “I work in time”, he said “and in time I’ll finish.”

By the time of his death in 1990, Ulysses Davis had created over 200 carvings. Religious tones abound in his work, but Davis always was able to turn familiar Biblical themes into seemingly new, vivid and moving realities.

He was especially known for his series of busts of American presidents and mythical prehistoric creatures.

It was Savannah educator Virginia Kiah who “discovered” Davis in 1953.  His works were first displayed by Kiah in the Telfair Museum in Savannah.  National recognition began for Davis in 1978 when several of his sculptures where shown at the library of Congress as part of the exhibit “Missing Pieces and Sketches of South Georgia Folk Life”.

Ulysses Davis received the Georgia Governor’s Award for the Arts for carving.


2009  "The Treasures of Ulysses Davis, Sculpture from a Savannah Barbershop," American Folk Art Museum, NYC

2008-2009  "The Treasures of Ulysses Davis, Sculpture from a Savannah Barbershop," High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA 

2002  "American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum,"
American Folk Art Museum, NYC

2001  "Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art

1996  "Ulysses Davis, American Folk Artist,"  Beach Institute, (King-Tisdell
Cottage Foundation) Savannah, GA

1996  "Rings: Five Passions in World Art," (during the 1996 Summer Olympic
Games) High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA 

1996  "Looking Back: Art in Savannah 1900-1960," Telfair Academy of Arts and
Sciences, Savannah, GA

1995  "Dust Tracks on a Road: Four Southern Self-Taught Artists," High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

1995  "The Vision of Ulysses Davis: "Humor and Popular Culture," Beach Institute, (King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation) Savannah, GA

1995  "The Vision of Ulysses Davis: History: Leaders, Patriots and Sovereigns," Beach Institute, (King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation) Savannah, GA

1994  "The Vision of Ulysses Davis: Faith, Piety and Love," Beach Institute,
(King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation) Savannah, GA

1994  "The Vision of Ulysses Davis: People, Humans, Animals and Plants," Beach Institute, (King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation) Savannah, GA

1993  "Passionate Visions of the American South," New Orleans Museum of Art,
traveled to Berkeley; San Diego; Washington, DC; and Raleigh

1991  "Spirits: Selections from the Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade," organized by the Katonah Museum of Art; traveled to Chicago; St. Paul; Portland, Maine; Boise; Gainesville, FL; Little Rock; Dayton; Milwaukee; Fort Wayne; and Scottsdale, AZ

1990 "Different Roots, Common Fruits," Gallery at City market, Savannah, GA

1988  "Outside the Mainstream: Folk Art in Our Time," High Museum of Art,

1988  Georgia Governor's Award in the Arts

1986  "Revelations: Visionary Content in the Work of Southern Self-Trained Artists," Altanta College of Art

1986  "Black Art/ists Five/from the South," curated by Robert Hicklin; traveled to Nashville; Little Rock; Charlotte; and Macon

1985  Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center

1985  "Woodcarvings of American Presidents, King Tisdell Cottage Museum

1982  "Discovering Black Africa in Coastal Georgia," King Tisdell Cottage
Museum, Savannah, GA (first solo exhibition)

1982  "Black Folk Art in America: 1930-1980," Corcoran Gallery of Art,
Washington, DC; traveled to Louisville; Brooklyn; Los Angeles; Houston,
Birmingham; and Chicago

1978  "Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art 1770-1976," Library of Congress,
Washington, DC

1976  "Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art 1770-1976," Atlanta History Center

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