Thursday, September 15, 2016

Two West Virginia Folklife Murals by Pat Musick

These two murals, created as part of Pat Musick's artist-in-residency at Fairmont State University, Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1992, illustrate folklore and ghost stories collected by Pat's aunt, Dr. Ruth Ann Musick. Most can be found in her books The Telltale Lilac Bush and Coffin Hollow, both published by the University Press of Kentucky.


West Virginia Ghost Stories

Enameled Steel; 3' 4" X 10'

Images in this mural depict numerous genre of ghosts including hitchhiking, farming, mining, and railroad ghosts, as well as Civil War ghosts and ghost animals. Throughout her teaching career, my aunt collected ghost stories from her students, many of whom were the first generation in their families to attend college. The stories were family lore or tales connected with particular places. All exemplify classic folklore motifs; for example: ghost returns to aid the living; ghost haunts place of misfortune; speaking animals; return from dead to reveal hidden fortune. The background hills depict West Virginia landscapes through the seasons: at left, a mine tipple in winter; moving toward the right, fiery autumn color, greens of high summer, and pale green forests of spring on hills above the New River.

West Virginia Folklore

Enameled Copper; 4' 2" X 4' 6"

Images in this mural are drawn from children's rhymes, folk sayings, ghost stories, and tales from Europe brought by Appalachia's waves of immigrants. My father illustrated his sister's books; some of my images are an homage to his illustrations. The rag doll leaning against the tombstone was his picture for a story about a little ghost girl who frequents a one-room schoolhouse, saying she lost her rag doll, until a new teacher is brave enough and thoughtful enough to make a new doll and give it to the child, who then vanishes. The teacher later learns that a child was murdered near there a generation before; on a walk in the woods, she stumbles upon the very doll she made, leaning against an overgrown headstone. On the right side of the mural, the skeleton hand comes from my father's illustration to "The Telltale Lilac Bush," in which the branches of a lilac bush beat against a window when there is no breeze. Upon digging it up, neighbors find the skeleton of the householder's wife, who had mysteriously disappeared some time before. Other images include a leprechaun and a wolf, references to Irish and European tales; three geese, from a children's rhyme; willows that form a heart, from a story of ill-fated lovers. The foliage was inspired by the flowering of West Virginia forests in spring: wild roses, dogwood, rhododendrons, springing from deep brown leaf carpets--tulip poplar, oak, and maple--of previous autumns.


About Pat Musick:  An introduction to book arts during her undergraduate studies led Ms Musick to London, England, and to Ireland, to conduct research on the lettering in early Irish manuscripts and its potential for contemporary design. Having a base in London for seven years gave her the opportunity to travel throughout Britain and Europe, absorbing ancient sites, other cultures, and the treasures of many great museum collections and exhibitions. She also worked with Irish traditional music groups and with The Dolmen Press.  It was in England that Ms Musick discovered in enameling (glass fused to metal at high heat) the means to integrate multiple layers of imagery, letterforms, and meanings. Over the past three decades, her work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the United States and six countries. She has produced three enameled copper and steel murals under the Art in Public Places program administered by the Colorado Council on the Arts, and served as Artist-in-Residence at the North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park. Ms Musick has taught design, art history and appreciation, enameling, calligraphy, and interdisciplinary courses at high school, college, and postgraduate levels.  She currently serves as interim director of The Folklife Center at Fairmont State University.

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