Knoxville (865) 558-3033 • Nashville (615) 812-6096 •

Case Auctions
Live Auction

Summer Fine Art & Antiques Auction - Day 1

Sat, Jul 8, 2023 09:00AM EDT
Lot 149

Bessie Harvey Mixed Media Folk Art Sculpture

Estimate: $800 - $900
Sold for

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $10
$100 $25
$500 $50
$1,000 $100
$3,000 $200
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$20,000 $2,000
$50,000 $5,000
$100,000 $10,000
Bessie Harvey (Georgia/Tennessee, 1929-1994) abstract folk art sculpture depicting a standing figure, comprised of painted driftwood mounted onto a 2 x 4 wood base with additional paint and bead decorations throughout. Unsigned. 13" H x 10" W x 3 1/4" D. Biography: Bessie Harvey was born in Dallas, Georgia, the seventh of thirteen children. She attended school through the fourth grade. In her early twenties she moved to Tennessee, living briefly in Knoxville and then permanently in nearby Alcoa, where she secured a job with Blount Memorial Hospital in order to help provide for her children and grandchildren. Although aware of her own creative gifts as a child, Harvey did not devote her full-time energies to making art until in her late forties. Seeking solace from life's challenges, she found strength and comfort in her faith and began to discern spirits in seemingly ordinary pieces of gnarled wood. In her makeshift basement studio, Harvey added paint, wood putty, shells, hair, cloth, and other items to each piece of wood in order to give vivid physical form to the spirit she perceived within. Her earliest creations tended to be small, simple figures decorated only with black paint, human hair, and shells or beads. Collectors began to recognize the raw expressive power of her strange, dark figures, and Harvey's reputation soared by the early 1980s. Troubled by local rumors that her work was the product of voodoo, Harvey one day in 1983 burned the contents of her studio. After a few weeks of self-reflection, however, she went back to work with the newfound realization that her sculptures were important messages from God to a troubled world. Her works became increasingly large, colorful, and elaborate and enriched by glitter, cloth, beads, and jewelry. She also embarked on a loosely autobiographical series, Africa in America, which she intended as a teaching tool for children in her community. By the time of her death in 1994, the series included more than twenty sculptural dioramas depicting the African American experience and race relations during and after the era of slavery. (source: The Tennessee Encyclopedia).


Overall very good condition with expected light wear.

Available payment options

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • Amex
  • Diners
  • Discover
  • JCB
  • Union Pay

Payment must be received no later than five (5) days after the sale.

If paying with a credit card, a 3% credit card processing fee will be applied to the final sales price (i.e. hammer price + buyer's premium + applicable taxes). If you have a credit card on file with Case, any winning bids will be automatically charged (up to $3000) along with applicable fees 72 hours after you receive your invoice unless other arrangements have been made.

If paying with wire transfer, please use the following information:
Bank: Pinnacle Bank
150 Third Avenue South, Suite 900
Nashville, TN 37201
Phone # (865) 766-3000
Swift Code: PNFPUS44
Routing, Transit, ABA: 064008637
Beneficiary: Case Antiques, Inc.
4310 Papermill Drive
Knoxville, TN 37909
Account #: NOT DISCLOSED (please refer to your invoice email for the Deposit Account Number or contact us )

The collection of Cindy Spangler, previous Collections Manager for UT Ewing Gallery in Knoxville, Tennessee. Obtained directly from the artist in the late 90s, during a visit to her home in Alcoa while reviewing works to be exhibited in the gallery.