"Trees is soul people to me. I have watched trees when they pray and I have watched them when they shout..." - Bessie Harvey
"This is Bessie Harvey, folk artist, so I’m called. I’m really not the artist. God is the artist in my work; nature and insects, they shape my work for me, because they belong to God. I belong to God, and all things belong to God, because it’s in his Word that all things are made to him, that without him there’s not anything made. I know that my art is a peculiar kind of art, but he says that his people are peculiar people and I just want to give all the praise and glory to him for my work. My work is something that tells of love, and he is love, so he let the insects and time and nature go in front and do the work and then he gives me the insight to bring it out. He uses the hands that he gave to me with his spirit in the hands and in the mind and in the heart and just in me, he’s all in me, and he expects me to bring it out, so that I can tell the world today that he is my life and he the artist in my work...."
"Harvey's work belongs to a larger tradition of black folk art created in the American South. The assemblage aspect of her work, the use of found materials, and emphasis on religious themes are common to the black folk art tradition. As a visionaryartist, she often claims that God is the main source for her work, even to the extent that he is working through her: "I’m really not the artist. God is the artist in my work; nature and insects, they shape my work for me, because they belong to God. I belong to God, and all things belong to God, because it’s in his Word that all things are made to him, that without him there’s not anything made.” According to Harvey, God allowed her to see anthropomorphic forms within the wood she worked with, and with that help she could give physical shape to the spiritual presences within these tree roots, limbs, and pieces of driftwood. Her interest in nature was due in part to her belief that she could access or see the spirit of her ancestors within trees, for example, and the general belief that God and nature are one."
The de Young can now join the Smithsonian in adding the work of this artist to the permanent collection.
Revelations, Art from the African-American South through April, 2018