Salemburg resident Jeff Williams may not be known by many people, but his artwork often catches the eye of those who travel through Sampson County via N.C. 242.
Williams is a contemporary folk artist who carves sculptures out of wood and concrete. His work will be on display at the Victor R. Small House Sept. 28-Nov. 2, with an artist reception kicking off his exhibit from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday (tonight).
Carving wood has been somewhat of a hobby for Williams, who has been making sculptures for more than 30 years. His art pieces, he states, often weigh 100 pounds or more and are often made out of red oak.
“I use the best wood you can find,” Williams said. “It’s strong wood and it will last a long time.”
Sampson Arts Council director Kara Donatelli discovered Williams’ artwork several years ago when she visited the Hickory Museum of Art. Right in front of her eyes, she says there was a sculpture on display. For years, Donatelli explains, she had been looking for a folk artist to feature at the Small House, and it took her traveling dozens of miles to learn there was someone right in Sampson County.
“In returning to Sampson County and asking around, I was unable to find anyone who knew where I could find Jeff,” Donatelli shares. “Then, in September 2016, I read an article in Our State magazine about folk art collectors Allen and Barry Huffman from Hickory.”
The Huffmans met Williams more than 30 years ago and purchased several of his art pieces. Some of those pieces were the ones Donatelli was able to see at the Hickory Museum of Art exhibit. Despite loosing touch with Williams, the Huffmans continued to search to find him again.
“This past April, while riding down Hwy. 242 in Salemburg, I notice a man in his front yard carving a large tree trunk with a chainsaw,” Donatelli says. “I decided to pull in and ask his name. Sure enough, it was Jeff Williams.”
According to Donatelli, once she located Williams, she contacted the Huffmans, who planned a visit to Sampson County. During this past summer, the Huffmans and Donatelli made a trip to Salemburg and visited with Williams to talk about his craft.
“Jeff is a humble man with unique artistic skills and we are extremely excited to showcase his work,” the arts council director said.
Williams’ artwork has been collected through the years by folk art enthusiasts from New York to Tennessee to Alabama. The Salemburg native doesn’t see his work as anything special — it’s something he says he enjoys doing.
“When my mind gets into doing something, I get it done,” Williams said. “This is just my hobby and something I enjoy doing.”
Friday’s reception will feature acoustic bluegrass music by Charles Carlisle and is free and open to the public.
The Small House art gallery is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., or by appointment. To contact Donatelli, call 910-592-2533.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.