The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

June 10, 2013

Appalachian art collector shares work of self-taught artists with West Virginia


MORGANTOWN — From sling shots to roosters

Minnie Adkins whittled popguns, slingshots, and bows and arrows as a child, providing herself with her own toys. Living in Isonville, Ky., Adkins has whittled throughout her life.

As an adult she whittled roosters and sold them at flea markets for 50 cents or a dollar. When she saw a wooden goat outside a consignment shop in Morehead, Ky., she told the owner she could make that sort of thing, too. And she did.

Her hands and knife have made long-necked horses that are blocky and straight like those in Celtic myth, wide-mouthed alligators, stately foxes and her favorite, roosters.

She’ll find forked sticks, making legs out of one prong and a head and tail on the other. No rooster is the same. Each depends on the shape of the stick and the personality she gives them.

She says it doesn’t take a lot of imagination. You just have to see the rooster in the trees.

“With these roosters, you see one of them prongs in the tree where you know you can make a rooster out of it,” Adkins said.

Then the Lampells found her. She made it into their book and became part of the fledgling documentary and collection, and her life was changed.

Now she says, you can find out about her just by typing her name in an Internet search bar.

“Ramona has done a lot for art and helped a lot of people to help themselves,” Adkins said.

Through her exposition of Appalachian art, Ramona wanted to share the glories she saw from a place where what happens today is what matters. She wanted all the people she met in the outside world who looked down at her Appalachian roots to see the truth that she saw.

“I wanted to do this project so the people at the bottom of the mountains would have respect for the people at the top of the mountains and the people at the top of the mountains would have respect for themselves and all the wonderful things they do with their lives,” Ramona said.

Many of the artists depicted in O, Appalachia have died. And of the artists featured in documentary footage shown at WVU’s Blaney House from Ramona’s collection, Adkins is the only one living and still working – at the age of 79.

As West Virginia and Appalachia have transformed in the decades leading into the 21st century, so too has the art.

This means that the Appalachian artist experience is changing, too, and that it's unlikely that people are creating just like Adkins and her counterparts did, leaving Lampell’s collection as the chief expression of a cultural era for generations to come.

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