Work of the Week– “Black Bear” by Minnie Adkins

Monday, June 19, 2017

By Haley Clement

Being new to the area and its surreal landscape, I have developed an interest in the critters, both big and small, that inhabit it. Bears, which do not roam around in the yards of Tampa Bay residents, have become increasingly alluring since my move to Asheville. With this, I naturally was drawn to Minnie Adkins’ Black Bear for the week’s featured piece.


Adkins was born in 1934 in Isonville, KY. Growing up, Adkins became fascinated with carving after her father instructed her on the craft. This passion grew into a career after she visited an art gallery, showed the owner some of her work and began selling pieces in the space. With her growing popularity in the gallery, the owner, Adrian Swain, introduced her to other folk art dealers, which helped to propel her business even further. With the heightened demand, Adkins and her husband, Garland, teamed up to co-create works. Together they are regarded as helping to stimulate the folk art movement in Northeastern Kentucky.

The distinct style that Adkins incorporates into her foxes, bears and opossums makes her work easily recognizable. For example, this bear, like many of the other animals she creates, is almost entirely abstract in nature with its sleek body, elongated mouth and substantial teeth. It also flaunts a rather lengthy tongue that is certainly hard to overlook – I mean, it’s practically the size of a leg! Her color palette for this piece is also restricted to just black, white and red, which brings emphasis to the blood-red tongue and porcelain-spiked teeth. By doing this, Adkins added a strength and ferocity to the creature that offsets its rather silly eyes.

While the bears rummaging through your trash may not look like this, you can certainly see more like it in the Collections area of our website.

Artwork above: Minnie Adkins, Black Bear, 2006, painted and carved wood, 6.75 x 13.5 x 1.88 inches. Gift of George R. and Olivia M. Shelley. Permanent Collection. 2006.03.03.32.