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Unknown, American

Tramp Art Shrine, ca. 1865-1900
American Sculpture
Wood, paper and mirror
43 1/2 x 26 1/4 x 19 in. (110.5 x 66.7 x 48.3 cm)

Lillian Utz Fund and Tribute Fund,  87.4

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About the Object

Tramp art, originally thought to have been a style of woodworking used by hoboes to make gifts for people who provided them with hospitality, is now understood to encompass a broader group of work by self-taught artisans.  Typically using found materials, the creators used a chip or notch carving technique and layering of materials to create optically dazzling patterns and designs.  

In this work, an Armour meat packing box was used for the body of the shrine, to which layers of intricately decorated details were added. In the interior are references from the New Testament to the betrayal and death of Jesus, among them the cross, the cock, the ladder and the spear.  While we do not know the artist's name, the degree of his piety communicates itself through his painstaking creation of this personal shrine.

[Gallery label text, 2002]