Great and Mighty Artist of the Day:
Born Davidson County, Tennessee, 1874; died Nashville, 1951
Born to former slaves on a farm near Nashville, he moved with his family to the city around 1890, where he held jobs as a farmhand, stonemason, city sewer or railroad worker, and at the Nashville Woman’s Hospital. A devout Primitive Baptist, Edmondson had a vision sometime between 1930 and 1933 in which he said God appeared and talked to him about the gift of stonecutting he was going to confer. Using found chunks of limestone and simple chisels, Edmondson began to make tombstones in the shapes of angels, animals, local individuals, and famous Americans.
In 1937, the Museum of Modern Art held a small show of Edmondson’s sculptures – the first one-man exhibition at that institution of works by an African American. Edmondson was included in the landmark 1982 exhibition Black Folk Artists in America, 1930–1980 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., which brought him to the public’s attention.