Freeman Vines Collection

Freeman Vines (b. 1942) built his first guitar in 1958 and has been searching for a tone ever since. Using found materials from around his lifelong home in Eastern North Carolina, Vines hand carves instruments and objects that reveal an intense struggle with race, ecology, and his own self. In 2016 Vines acquired a stack of lumber from the tree used in the lynching of Oliver Moore in 1930. Vines reflects on working with the wood: “I could see the turmoil in the wood as I worked with it. Its features spoke to me. Could you imagine how that man suffered?”

Vines’ ability to birth such transformational potential from the wood of a hanging tree places him in a rich tradition of Southern African American artists who collect materials from their surroundings and transform them into artworks that often reveal a deep sense of the interconnectedness of all things, human and non-human.

Vines’ sculptures speak to the systems of injustice and inequity that continue to operate in our world. His work, however, implores that we not be confined to this world. It shows us that we can instead renew our minds, open our eyes, hear the past, and work towards a better future.

Photographs © 2020 Freeman Vines