This fall, the Kentucky Museum will host the unique folk art exhibition, “Chester Cornett: Beyond the Narrow Sky,” featuring more than two dozen of the famed folk artist’s rocking chairs and other objects made before his death in 1981. Upon completion of its inaugural display at the Kentucky Folk Art Center, this unique collection will be at the Kentucky Museum from Sept. 13 through Nov. 9.
Brent Bjorkman, director of the Kentucky Folklife Program at WKU, explains the significance of the exhibit. “In the public eye, traditional folk artists are often perceived as quaint and simple practitioners of age-old static crafts,” Bjorkman said. “(This exhibit) helps to dispel this notion. Kentucky folk artist Chester Cornett was a man of immense talent, intelligence and complexity. Cornett’s life’s work as a chair maker is emblematic of artistic sensibilities fostered by his evolving worldview and a penchant for both embracing and repelling modern society. By witnessing his creations exhibit visitors will begin to grasp a greater understanding and appreciation of the dynamic complexities of Cornett’s artistry, a profound array of personal design and construction ideals that only an axe and a drawknife in the hands of a master craftsman can produce.”
According to the Kentucky Folk Art Center, Cornett was a figure of great cultural interest in the 1960s and 1970s. Myths sprang up about the Appalachian artist, and well-known authors, poets, and scholars as diverse as Wendell Berry, Michael Owen Jones, and Louis Zukofsky were inspired by his works. In his native Kentucky mountains and in Cincinnati, where he spent his last years, stories about him still persist.
“We are so pleased to display this unique collection organized by the Kentucky Folk Art Center,” said Kentucky Museum Director Timothy Mullin. “In addition to the Kentucky Museum’s existing Cornett rocker, the public will have the opportunity to view a much broader sample of Cornett’s works.”
While Cornett spent his life making hundreds of chairs, only a few dozen are known to exist. An opening reception for the exhibit and a chair-making workshop are being planned. For information, go to www.wku.edu/kentuckymuseum/exhibits_upcoming.php#cornett or contact the Kentucky Museum at 270-745-2592.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson, (270) 991-7585.