William Dawson


Woman in Long Dress with Red Ear Muffs
Carved Cedar and polychrome.
Articulated arms.
Prov: ex Hemphill and Calvin Morris Collection
33″l x 10″w x 1.5″d

William Dawson
“I had always been good with my hands… but when I retired altogether, I needed something to do, so I began whittling.”
Born in Hunstville, Alabama, Dawson was raised on his family’s farm and attended school through the fifth grade. He moved to Chicago in the early 1920’s and worked for a produce distributor for thirty-five years, eventually becoming the manager of operations.
After his retirement in the mid-1960’s, Dawson enrolled in adult education classes in ceramics and painting, but found them too regimented. He began to carve instead and, more recently, returned to painting. At first using discarded wood, often old chair and table legs, he created totem-like sculptures, human and animal figures and multimedia assemblages. His subjects derive from the Bible, current events, television, and folktales and imagined subjects. Each carved piece is painted with enamel, varnished and occasionally decorated with glitter, animal bones, feathers, hair, stones, or shells. Most of his figures are carved in the round and have strongly outlined facial features and prominent eyes and teeth. Dawson roughed out his figures with a coping saw and detailed them with wood files and a drafting knife. His carvings range from a few inches high to four feet in height.