Weekley, Carolyn J.
WEEKLEY, Carolyn J.
Female. Education: Earned master's degree.
Office—Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, P.O. Box 1776, Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776.
Author and museum director. Colonial Williamsburg, Juli Grainger Director of Museums, 2000—; former director, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Bassett Hall, and Carter's Grove.
Folk Art Society (member of national advisory board, 2003-04).
(With Beatrix T. Rumford) Treaures of American Folk Art from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Little, Brown (Boston, MA)/Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Williamsburg, VA), 1989.
John Singleton Copley: An American Painter Entirely Devoted to His Art, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Williamsburg, VA), 1994.
(With Laura Pass Barry) The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Williamsburg, VA), 1999.
An author and museum director, Carolyn J. Weekley focuses her work on individual artists and noteworthy national collections. She is the director of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and several other museums at Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia. The Folk Art Museum houses thousands of works of American folk art from the Colonial era to the present. Rockefeller began collecting folk art long before it became popular, and was assisted in developing her collection by specialist Holger Cahill. Cahill was a proponent of the practice of selecting artworks based on one's own intuitive response to "art quality," which he admitted was "not easy to define, though of art in general it is not hard to understand," noted Jean martin in Wilson Library Bulletin. By using this method of trusting intuition and "gut feeling," Rockefeller amassed one of the finest collections of folk art in the United States. Weekley catalogued these works with former center director Beatrix T. Rumford—their work was presented in Treasures of American Folk Art from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, published in conjunction with the collection's national tour in 1989.
Though the book is a detailed bibliography of the collection's contents, it also contains much additional information. Weekley and Rumford explore the everyday lives of the artists, seeking to understand how and why the individual works were made. Also included are dozens of images and illustrations of quilts, toys, weather vanes, and paintings made by self-taught artists. A reviewer for American Craft described the book as "a lively, informed text that presents these increasingly popular objects not merely as examples of a 'country' or Early American decorative style, but as vivid indicators of American social history." Martin described the book's design as "rather unimaginative in its basic layout," but commended Weekley and Rumford for their carefully written text that "yields many interesting bits of information" for the attentive reader.
Weekley's book The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks is a scholarly history of nineteenth-century Quaker painter Edward Hicks (1780-1849), considered a progenitor of the "naive" style. Hicks's mother died when he was young, and his father sent him to family friends who raised him as a Quaker. He was trained as a decorative painter through an apprenticeship to a local stagecoach shop. After becoming a minister in 1811, an occupation with no income, he painted to help support his family. Painting was considered a frivolous activity by the sternly pragmatic Quakers, and Hicks constantly struggled to reconcile his spiritual convictions with his and his family's material needs. His cousin Elias Hicks eventually guided him toward his own "Hicksite" faction, which led to antipathy between this faction and the orthodox Quakers.
Hicks's "Peacable Kingdom" paintings are believed to be a response to the conflict between Hicks's new Quaker group and the traditional Quakers from which it splintered. Amy Todd, writing in the New York Times Book Review, noted that Hicks's "many versions of the 'Peacable Kingdom' paintings symbolically reflect the urgency of that discord as well as his desire for peace between the two divisions" of Quakers. He based his sixty-two "Peacable Kingdom" paintings on Isaiah's Old Testament prophecy in which "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb." The technically simple and repetitive but serene images evoke Hicks's own religious devotion. Hicks's paintings "mirror his personal agony about religious tension," Todd noted.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Craft, December, 1989-January, 1990, review of Treasures of American Folk Art from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, p. 24.
Library Journal, May 15, 1989, Douglas F. Smith, review of The Kingdoms of Edward Hicks, p. 94.
New York Times Book Review, May 16, 1999, "Art for Religion's Sake," p. 29.
Wilson Library Bulletin, May, 1989, Jean Martin, "Connoisseur," pp. 134-135.
Colonial Williamsburg Web site,http://www.history.org/ (October 6, 2004).
Folk Art Society Web site,http://www.folkart.org/ (October 6, 2004).