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George Ray McCormick

Woodcarving and Metalwork
Milwaukee, WI


Acrylic: (sounds like, a-KRIL-lick) A type of plastic added to paint to increase shine and toughness.
Soft, light-colored wood from linden trees.
Character: The inner qualities of a person.
Thrown away; trashed.
(sounds like, e-KLEK-tick) Combining ideas, methods or styles that come from many different sources.
(sounds like, n-VI-shunned) Pictured in his mind.
Evolves: (sounds like, e-VOLVES) Develops.
Inspiration: Something that stimulates creativity or imagination.
Intricate: With complicated details.
Low-relief carvings: Two-dimensional carvings with images that rise just a little from the background.
Grain: The direction, size and arrangement of the fibers in wood. Grain is formed from the way a tree grows.
Metalworking: Making things out of metal in a skillful way.
Mythology: (sounds like mith-OL-o-gee) Collection of traditional sacred stories called myths.
Pioneering: original; doing things in revolutionary ways
Porcelain: (sounds like, POUR-slin) A hard, white ceramic.
Representational: (sounds like REP-ree-zen-TAY-sha-null) Art that shows a person, place or thing in a recognizable way; not abstract.
Subjective: Based on individual experiences and interpretations; not objectively measured.
Symbol: Something that represents something else.
Three-dimensional: Has height, width and depth.
Wrought iron: A type of iron that does not have much carbon in it, so it is soft, tough and easy to work with.

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Journal Questions

QuestionHave you ever really liked a piece of art that you made, but other people said it was weird or ugly? How did you react to that difference of opinion?

QuestionWhat ideas, people or places inspire your artmaking?

QuestionWhat do you think is the story of a woman who is “The Bomb” or a man who is “Too Cool”?

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Resources For Teachers    

Book ResourceTo find articles on several Wisconsin visionary artists such as Mona Webb, Prophet William Blackmon, and Dr. Evermor, see Jeffrey R. Hayes’, UW-M Professor of Art History, bibliography. In addition, find the book Miracles of the Spirit: Folk, Art, and Stories from Wisconsin by Don Krug and Ann Parker.

Web ResourceHoward Finster is a visionary artist admired by George. Pyrography explores his carving and wood burning, and Georgia’s Appalachia provides a thorough biography on Finster, as does his daughter Beverly on HF Biography

To find out about the current state of African American arts in Wisconsin, contact the advocacy group African-American Artists Beginning to Educate Americans about African-American Arts (ABEA). Read this letter to the Art Forum editor, “Not in My Backyard,” to find Madison artist Marlon H. Banks’ thoughts on the topic.

Web ResourceThe Florida State Archive’s website offers an in-depth look at Mary McLeod Bethune, her life and work. Included are excellent photos and lessons plans for grades 4 and 5. 

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Resources For Students

Web ResourceSee one of George’s carvings, “Climbing Out of Hell.” It was in the exhibit, “Wisconsin Visions: A Journey of Wisconsin Self Taught, Outsider & Folk Art,” at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, January 18-March 16th, 2002. You’ll see images of work by other visionary and traditional Wisconsin artists here too.

Web ResourceDo you know the African-American history of Milwaukee? Can you name two African-American cultural resources in Milwaukee? You can go to Milwaukee Black Online to find out.

Web ResourceRemember the doll George carved of Mary McLeod Bethune? Do you know why she is so respected? Read about her life in this short biography from the National Women’s Hall of Fame, or this longer Profile in Caring by Val J. Halamandaris. 

Web ResourceListen to this audio clip of Mary McLeod Bethune as she says, “We firmly believe that education has the irresistible power to overcome the shackles of slavery” (from the Shomberg Center for Research in Black Culture).

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Text written by Jamie Yuenger, edited by Anne Pryor.

Sources consulted include fieldwork with George McCormick by Chad Reichart (5/2/2001) for the UW-Madison Folklore Program, a tape-recorded interview by Carrie and Michael Kline (6/25/98) for the Wisconsin Arts Board, and video footage from the 2002 Midwest Folklife Festival Teacher Institute at Folklore Village, with the tapes housed at the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Wisconsin Folks

For Educators:

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George McCormick



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