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Edgar Tolson, born Lee City, KY 1904-died Campton, KY 1984
carved and painted white elm with pencil
12 7/8 x 17 x 10 in. (32.7 x 43.2 x 25.5 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson
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Luce Center Label
Edgar Tolson created many carvings that show Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He believed that the Fall of Man, along with the crucifixion of Christ, was one of the most important moments in history because it symbolized human weakness. A former preacher with vulnerabilities of his own, he seemed particularly attracted to images of this event. In Paradise the devil in the form of a serpent slithers toward the Tree of Knowledge, an act that foreshadows Adam and Eve's fall from grace. Tolson painted the serpent black to identify the devil's wickedness in contrast with the pure white elm of the rest of the figures.
Luce Object Quote
"God made the first Adam and Eve and I made the second. But I lack a long shot of being God." Edgar Tolson, quoted in Michael D. Hall, "You Make It with Your Mind," The Clarion, 1987