After he retired from a career in secondary education, Fred Webster attended a summer course at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, renewing his childhood interest in woodcarving. Webster initially carved comic-strip characters, but soon moved on to animals, historical figures, and people associated with his home state of Alabama. In the mid-1980s, he began showing his carvings at the Kentucky Festival of the Arts in Alabama and soon was commissioned by an art-gallery owner to carve the Last Supper, the first of the religious works for which Webster would be known.
This piece from the Nasher collection, a sculpture of the angel Gabriel blowing his horn, exemplifies Webster's style and technique. The artist made many of these small angels, as well as devils, using scraps of wood from furniture plants and house paints. There is a whimsical nature to his brightly painted figures, with their toy-like joints and cartoonish expressions. Webster's carving of Gabriel, often depicted as the angel that would blow his trumpet to signal the Last Judgment, also displays some of the artist's wry humor. Written on the bottom of the work is the inscription "Blow that trumpet, Gabriel."
Because he was largely self-taught and used nontraditional materials, Webster is considered an outsider artist. Separated from the art world centered in New York, so-called outsider artists create work that does not necessarily fit into art-historical categories of movements or schools. Gabriel Angel is on view with other works of outsider art from the Nasher Museum's collection from December 10, 2011, through July 8, 2012.
Selections from the Nasher Museum of Art
November 30, 2011