Three Ways to Send a Message: Telephone, Telegram, Tell-a-Woman


Elijah Pierce (American, 1892–1984)


ca. 1941


Wood and paint


15 1/2 x 18 x 1 1/2 inches


Purchase with T. Marshall Hahn Folk Art Acquisition Fund for the T. Marshall Hahn Collection

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Elijah Pierce was a Baptist minister who used his carving skills to create “sermons in wood,” which he used as teaching tools. Illustrated on the left panel of this complex composition are a telegram bicycle messenger, a telephone, and the act of “telling a woman.” On the right panel is a portrait of George Washington Carver surrounded by the peanuts and sweet potatoes of his famed agricultural experiments. Together these images address various forms of communication, from private gossip to public education. This work concerns the central importance of oral tradition within any community as well as the moral challenges inherent in storytelling.

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