Fred Carter

About the Artist

(Photograph courtesy of Gerald and Denise Gray)

Biography

Born in Duffield, VA., on the North Fork of the Clinch River, in 1911. In 1938 he moved to Clintwood, in the coal fields of far southwestern Virginia, to run his uncle's hardware store.

Fred Carter was the master of what artist, film-maker and writer Jack Wright (see reference below) has called "Appalachian Art Brut". A largely self-taught artist, Fred Carter did not turn to the wood sculpture for which he is known until he was in his fifties.

Carter was a retired Clintwood, Virginia hardware-store owner who could have rested on his laurels as a skilled and respected Appalachian wood-carver and stone-mason. Instead he chose to make trouble for himself by depicting Indians, refugees and historical figures ranging from Martin Luther King to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin in his work. Most notably, in both his sculpture and his paintings, he exposed the ravages of coal mining on both the miners and their environment: "Are you asking me how I felt when they began to tear up our mountains and rape the land and poison our streams and dry up our wells and springs?" (in conversation with writer Jack Wright in 1985, quoted in his article "Appalachian Art Brut: Reflections on the Life Works of Fred J. Carter" - Appalacahian Journal, Fall 2001). His work was his answer.

One of Fred Carter's most arresting works is his heroic larger than life-size figure of a coal miner, now installed at the Emory and Henry College library. He carries, besides his iconic helmet, lunch-pail, UMW bag and shovel, an iron lung on his chest. His ultimate work, also installed at Emory and Henry, is a janus-like figure of natural life and a mechanistic vision of death, called "The Final Battle".

Since his death in 1992 Carter has been honored by several retrospective exhibits, most notably Unrecognized Artists at the William King Regional Arts Center in Abingdon in 1997, and Fred Carter Retrospective: A Primitive Visionary's World View, curated by DR Mullins for the 1912 Gallery at Emory and Henry College., Emory, Virginia, in 2000.
 

In the fall of 2013 the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Md., devoted an entire gallery to Fred Carter's work as part of their year-long thematic exhibit, Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity!.

The work of Fred Carter is featured in the Summer 2014 issue of Raw Vision magazine with the article Appalachian Prophet by Len Davidson.

The works by Fred Carter on this page are shown courtesy of their owners. They are shown in the interest of honoring the legacy of this significant and under-appreciated artist. None of them are currently available for sale.

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The Final Battle - Fred Carter
SKU: FCA-2

Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia)
Currently on longterm loan to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and is exhibited as part of their permanent collection. It was the most spectacular piece in AVAM's 2014-2015 exhibit, "Human, Soul and Machine:  The Coming Singularity". It was previously on exhibit at Emory and Henry College, Emory, Va.
Wood sculpture, c.1990

The "Last Battle", it's the final battle between good and evil. On the one side you see the agonized face of man as he's being destroyed and on the other side you see the face of... it speaks for itself. it could be a dehumanized person or robot with a touch of the military and the evil is represented by the snake, or serpent which is devouring them both, when evil gets so far along in any society its self-destructive, it feeds on itself. And it is clear that evil is winning.

 

Fred Carter, from 1985 interview.

 

NOT FOR SALE
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Indian - Fred Carter
SKU: FCA-04

Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia),
Wood sculpture

Not for Sale (private collection)

NOT FOR SALE
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Coal Miner
SKU: FCA-03

Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia),
Currently on exhibit at Emory and Henry College, Emory, Va.
Wood sculpture

NOT FOR SALE
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Quo Vadis?
SKU: FCA-05

Quo Vadis
Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia)
Currently on exhibit at Emory and Henry College, Emory, Va.
White walnut sculpture, c.1985

Not for Sale (private collection)

Quo Vadis was a big white walnut tree. Standing and had a big fork that stuck up. Came a March wind and blew it down. I saw a thing there on the ground just all stretched out. I just looked at that tree and I saw a crucified force there. And that very day I got my chain saw and I cut it big and I drug it up to the front of there and I went to work on it. And I saw that thing just while it was down. Where goest thou? He's a mutant and he's in great trouble. It seems like everything is crying out. What is evil and wasteful is man.
Fred Carter, from 1985 interview.

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Behold my Miracle
SKU: FCA-06

Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia),
Walnut sculpture
(55" x 20"), c.1980

I was back, at Easter (1980), in the mountains, and a fellow was sawing up firewood. Now this was part of a walnut log... cut down 40 or 50 years ago... There was a limb going up through here about 10 feet long... I said, “Don’t cut that up for wood... I see something in this that I want to make... I see a pregnant woman... So I brought it home and began to look at it... the wood began to talk to me and tell me what it is...
So I will probably call this Behold My Miracle. That’s what the mother is saying,... “Behold me in the greatest moment of the miracle. 

Fred Carter, from 1985 interview.

NOT FOR SALE
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Dual Portrait (Fred and Vickie Carter)
SKU: FCA-07

Dual Portrait (Fred and Vickie Carter)
Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia),
Wood sculpture
(18 1/2" x 9") 1985

NOT FOR SALE
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Coal Miner
SKU: FCA-08

Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia),
Wood sculpture
(20 1/2" x 9 1/2")c.1980's

NOT FOR SALE
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Albert Einstein
SKU: FCA-09

Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia),
Wood sculpture
(18" x 9 1/2"), 1988

NOT FOR SALE
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Indian Chief
SKU: FCA-10

Fred Carter (1911 - 1992, Clintwood, Virginia),
Wood sculpture
(24" x 30 1/2") c.1980's

NOT FOR SALE
Product Status: 
Not for sale