I wasn’t going to write anything today but I opened a book that I have featuring works from the American Folk Art Museum, one that I browse on a regular basis. The page I turned to is near the middle of the book, a page that I always seem to turn to when I open the book, showing a carved piece, Holy Family, that I just love. It is attributed to the 19th century woodcarver John Philip Yaeger, a German born craftsman who worked in the Baltimore area. I’m not religious in any traditional sense of the word but I thought this would be a fitting image to show today, which is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar.
There’s something irresistibleabout this carving, beyond the subject matter, that I just can’t put my finger on. The color of its patina is beautifully golden and warm. The lines are smooth and rhythmic. There’s a wonderful balance of fineness and roughness in the way the pieces of wood that make up the sculpture are put together. It has a modern feel yet seems old– a timeless quality. Everything about it has that sense of rightness that I have tried to describe here without much success in the past.
I also am intrigued but he damage on the left shoulder of the father. I don’t know if this is just a property of the wood after these many years but it looks like it may have been near a cat who saw this as a perfect scratching post. But even that doesn’t lessen the power of the piece. It fits right into the wholeness of it. Imperfectly perfect.