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June 25, 2001

"Life in Perspective: The Woodcarvings of Rupert Kreider" on display at the Abby Alrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

Colonial Williamsburg will present a compelling display of scenic carvings created by the late itinerant Arkansas artist Rupert P. Kreider (1897-1983). "Life in Perspective: The Woodcarvings of Rupert Kreider" will feature nine individual pieces–eight elaborate farmscapes and other rural scenes carved in relief and a lamp base made from a cypress knee carved in the round–on loan to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. The exhibition will be on display Nov. 22, 2001–Feb. 17, 2003.

Kreider incorporated intricate detail into his woodcarvings. The largest and most complex scenes also reveal his knack for creating the illusion of spatial depth through the use of distant "vanishing points" and repetitive motifs that diminish in size and seem to disappear in the distance. Illusory techniques such as these have been used by artists for centuries, but more often in paintings and drawings than in relief carvings.

"People who knew Kreider have remarked on his ability to live according to his own terms, characterizing him as a ‘free spirit’ who honored personal inclinations, disdained material wealth and focused on the present moment," said Barbara Luck, Colonial Williamsburg curator of paintings and sculpture. "Perhaps the artist's knack for creating the illusion of spatial depth in his carvings extended to his personal philosophy, enabling him to prioritize his needs, to take life's twists and turns in stride, and to ‘put things in perspective.’"

Much remains unknown about Kreider's life. He was born in Lancaster, Pa., the second son of Edwin and Nora P. Kreider. He told a friend that he left home at the age of 14 because he didn't like farm life and that he set off "just walking and carving." By the 1950s, he was leading a modified hobo existence, drifting from one place to another and sustaining himself through odd jobs and the sale of his carvings.

About 1955, Kreider arrived at the Squirrel Trading Post in St. Joe, Ark., a souvenir and curio shop owned and operated by G. D. and Dorothea Thomas with the help of their three children Ronald, Gloria and Danny. Kreider arranged to sell his smaller, simpler carvings in the Thomas’ shop, but the family retained his larger pieces for their personal collection. Later, the carvings were sold to the current owners, John Joe and Karen Harris of Dardanelle, Ark. Kreider visited the Squirrel Trading Post sporadically until the late 1960s or early 1970s. He died in 1983 and, because he had served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was given a veteran's burial in the National Cemetery in Little Rock, Ark.

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