Cousin-on-Friday (Primary Title)
Self-taught Virginia sculptor Leslie Bolling gained renown in the 1930s and 1940s for his hand-carved genre figures. Many, like this compelling pair (2006.246 & 44.2.1), feature a lively flickering surface that gives evidence of the artist’s penknife.
Bolling found his themes in the daily activities of friends and neighbors. Cousin-on-Friday is one of seven sculptures from the artist’s Day of the Week series, which pays tribute to the labors of an extended family of women. Most link a domestic chore – such as laundry, mending, or baking – to the day it was traditionally performed. Although this tiny worker is portrayed scrubbing a floor on hands and knees, her mouth is open in song. The humorously titled Saver of Soles presents an industrious cobbler, depicted in such detail that one can see the laces on his wingtip shoes.
Working as a store porter by day and carving his figures at night, Bolling was discovered in the late 1920s by New York tastemaker Carl VanVechten. He soon gained sponsorship of the Harmon Foundation, the first major organization dedicated to the promotion of African American art. In the following decade, his carvings were featured in national art shows and magazines. Although Bolling slipped into obscurity in the final years of his life, he is now included in most major surveys of African American art.
Freeing Art from Wood: Leslie Garland Bolling, Library of Virginia, July 24 - October 21, 2006.
The Human Figure in American Sculpture, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 23 - May 14, 1995; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, June 22 - Spetember 10, 1995; Wichita Art Museum, October 21, 1995 - January 7, 1996; National Academy of Design, February 15 - May 5, 1996.
Against the Odds: African American Artists & the Harmon Foundation, 1923-1943, Newark Museum, New Jersey, January 13 - April 15, 1990; Gibbes Art Gallery, Charleston, SC, May 1 - July 9, 1990; Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, July 28 - September 29, 1990.
Sandra L. West, "Missing in Action Leslie Garland Bolling's Witness to Humani-ty and Dignity," about…time magazine Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, pp. 5-7, b&w ill. p. 5.
Barbara Batson, Freeing Art from Wood The Sculpture of Leslie Garland Bolling (Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2006) pp. 10-11, 41-42, cat. no. 5, color ill. p. 40.
Nell Irvin Painter, Creating Black Americans (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 149, color fig. 8.7, p. 151.
Roy Proctor, "'Eureka!' moment leads to show of all the known Bolling works,"
Richmond Times-Dispatch August 6, 2006, p. H-1.
Richard Foster, "Lost & Found: Little-known Local Artifacts Have Great Stories to Tell," Richmond Magazine Sourcebook issue, 2003, p. 41, color ill.
Ilene Susan Fort, The Figure in American Sculpture A Question of Modernity (L.A. County Museum of Art in association with University of Washington Press: 1995) pp. 90, 181-182, fig. 98.
Against the Odds The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance (New Jersey Network TV program).
Barbara Batson, Freeing Art from Wood The Sculpture of Leslie Garland Bolling ex. cat. (Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2006) pp. 10, 11, 41, 42, cat. 5, raisonné no. 9, ill. p. 40.
“VMFA acquires Bolling sculptures,” Richmond Free-Press, Feb. 22-24, 2007,
Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.