Massey, Willie – African-American Artist

Willie Massey (American, 1906 to 1990)

Willie Massey is a self-taught artist from Kentucky who spent his life as a tenant dairy farmer. He made only utilitarian objects before his wife’s death in 1955. After, he began to make sculptures, which he called “tricks”. He fashioned animals and birds, farm equipment, birdhouses and airplanes from found objects and repurposed material. He would also buy stretched canvases and paint on the backs to create pre-made frames for his images. Massey is probably best known for his birdhouses, his wingless birds made from aluminum foil painted with enamel, and his airplanes. He died in 1990 as a result of burns suffered in a fire in his home. In 1998 Massey’s art was featured in the exhibition African-American Folk Art in Kentucky at the Kentucky Folk Art Center . His work is included in many permanent collections, including the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; Morris Museum of Art, Morristown, NJ; and the University of Mississippi Museum, Oxford, MS.

Information Courtesy of Rago Arts, October, 2019.

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