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An Original Maker: S.L. Jones

/ Spotlight on the Collection

Shields Landon “S.L.” Jones, Untitled (Musicians with Fiddle and Banjo), about 1992 – 1993, ink and oil pastel or crayon on paper, Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Robert Cargo Folk Art Collection; Gift of Caroline Cargo, AFI.703.2013

This image of two musicians was created by Shields Landon “S.L.” Jones, an artist from West Virginia. Jones, who was born in 1901, grew up in the rural Southern Appalachians where his family farmed. He left school in eighth grade to join the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, where he worked for 50 years.  

Upon his retirement, he took up a hobby from his youth, and began whittling and carving small figures. Over time the scale of his sculptures grew and he began making life-sized portrait heads and full figures, representing his friends, neighbors, and family members. He stated that working on his sculptures helped fill a void following the death of his first wife.  

Following a stroke in the 1990s, he could no longer work with heavy wood and tools and turned to drawing. This new medium allowed him to expand the subject matter of his art, and while he still focused on the human figure, he created a context for his figures, and added details to their surroundings. In his drawings, Jones documented the cherished traditions from his own life and Southern Appalachian culture, including bluegrass music, hunting, farming, church, and community gatherings.

This work of art and seven additional works by “S.L.” Jones are on view in the exhibition The Original Makers: Folk Art from the Cargo Collection through December 30, 2018.