Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, brings us another post in her ongoing series about interesting artifacts in the Museum Division collection.
This unfired clay head with a white cotton moustache, black cotton hair glued to the top, and corn kernel teeth, was made by James “Son Ford” Thomas, a prominent Delta blues musician who became critically acclaimed for his visual art, as well. Born in 1926 near Eden in Yazoo County, Mississippi, Thomas earned his nickname from the Ford tractors he would make out of clay as a child. Working with the very pliable clay found in the hills of Yazoo County, which he called “Gumbo clay,” Thomas made his first skull when he was young, scaring his grandfather with it when he displayed it in their home. The artist’s work has been shown in numerous art galleries and museums and was even on display in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1981, at which time he visited the White House and met Nancy Reagan.