The power of Bessie Harvey’s root carvings cannot be denied. The artist had a genius for discovering the life force within each root complex and bringing it into our field of vision. Declaring her primary motivation was to free the African spirits she felt were trapped in trees, Harvey tapped into her own African heritage with every button, bead, and shell she pierced into the gnarled roots. In Harvey’s hands, the surface embellishment of sequins and other shiny materials served to further negotiate between the nebulous boundaries of our world and the spiritual world of ancestors. This work also darkly sparkles with colored glitter, a material invented in the 1930s by New Jersey machinist Henry Ruschmann. He innovated a way to grind sheets of colored plastic into minute flecks, thereby infinitely increasing the potential surface area to reflect light.
Stacy C. Hollander, "The World," exhibition label for Ooh, Shiny!. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2012.