Sherry Lawson / Wiko
The coronavirus pandemic has defied all of us in ways big and small, but isolation has been one of the hardest parts. Lots of people have found creative ways to cope with wearing masks or working from home or alone more than usual.
The 87-year-old Kentucky woman spent time shrinking.
Minnie Adkins has spent almost the entire past year alone, in her home in a valley between the steep hills of eastern Kentucky. Usually she would sit in her chair in her living room with a towel on her lap to pick up sawdust as it fed. But on this day, she is sitting on her front porch. She slips a long pocket knife from her blue jeans pocket and picks up a piece of maple wood.
“So, are you ready for me to start shrinking?” Adkins asks.
A popular artist begins carving in wood to make a rooster. She said she enjoys going outside because there is a nice breeze.
“It’s better to be free of the cold outside than at home,” Adkins explains.
Sherry Lawson / Wiko
They are known for carving exotic animals such as opossums, tigers and bears. Since the pandemic, Adkins has mostly confined herself to the home. But she kept busy drawing and dribbling a little more than usual.
“I trimmed 182 items from March through September,” says Adkins. Then, I completed 62 paintings.
As she was chopping down the piece of wood, she said this time COVID hadn’t changed her style. Judging from the sculpture in her hand, it is her second nature.
Adkins says, “Well, we removed all the wood we didn’t need and left what we needed. It would have looked better if I hadn’t cut its beak too short.”
When she was 10 years old, Adkins herself taught this art form that was dominated by men in the first place. The graceful woodcutter said it would make toys like bows and arrows, shotguns and whistles.
In the mid-1980s, Adkins sold a few of her pieces to a small showroom in Kentucky for $ 32. Now some people pay hundreds of dollars for her sculptures. She believes that anyone wanting to work hard can create folk art.
“You don’t have to be a coach,” says Adkins. “You don’t have to have someone to teach you. You just do what your being wants to do and what your heart tells you to do.”
The Appalachian artist is humble about the recognition she has received, including an Excellence Award from the American Folk Art Association and an honorary doctorate from Morehead State University. Her work has been honored in permanent collections across the country, including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Cincinnati Museum of Art, the Huntington Museum of Art, and the Kentucky Center for Folk Art.
She says sitting on the front porch for the past year and a half doesn’t look real except for all the work she did. It has probably doubled as usual during this pandemic and calls it a blessing.
“I don’t know what I would have done had it not been for the sculpture last year because it helped me so much through the days of solitude,” says Adkins. “The only thing is that I was making money but I couldn’t go out to spend it, so I think that was fine.”