The Treasure of Ulysses Davis: Sculpture from a Savannah Barbershop

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by Susan Mitchell Crawley, clothbound
119 pages, University Press of Mississippi


In the early 1950s, Ulysses Davis (1914-1990) opened a barbershop he built behind his home in Savannah, Georgia. A whittler since boyhood, he soon began carving figures from wood in his spare time. He decorated the outside of his barbershop and filled the inside with his reliefs and freestanding carvings. During his lifetime, Davis created more than three hundred works, producing a varied but unified body of wood sculpture that reflects his faith, humor, and dignity.

Davis's sculptures range in height from six to more than forty inches, and can be divided into several major categories: religious images, patriotism, works influenced by African forms, abstract decorative objects, and portraits of African and American leaders. The latter includes what many regard as Davis's masterwork--a series of forty carved busts of all the U.S. presidents through George H. W. Bush. Because the artist rarely sold his sculptures, his carvings have had limited exposure outside of Georgia. Davis wanted his work to stay together after he died, and most of his sculpture is now held by the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation in Savannah.

The Treasure of Ulysses Davis accompanies an exhibition organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. The definitive introduction to Davis's work, the book features full-color reproductions of 120 sculptures.

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