Before I tell you about Annie Hooper herself, I want to tell you about Annie the artist. The most remarkable thing about Annie Hooper – and the reason why I am in North Carolina – is her creation of 2,500 statues from found material. At the end of World War II, she spent the next 35 years of her life making them from driftwood, putty and cement. Almost all depict Biblical characters and scenes.
Annie first had them all set up in her house, and from what I understand, there was barely room to walk around the crowds of little people. Believing that God was directing her to create this work, her intention was to introduce others to the teachings of the Bible. She chose to recreate Bible scenes that were meaningful to her – the Annunciation, Jacob’s dream, the Resurrection, to name a few. She did not recreate some scenes, such as the Crucifixion, which is somewhat puzzling given its significance in Biblical narrative.
Strangers who arrived at her home were invited in for a tour of the various scenes, with Annie narrating the stories. When her husband became ill and she did not have time to conduct personal tours of her home, she left signs with messages to accompany the statues. Her life’s work was never intended for sale or public display in a gallery; she only wanted others to appreciate the messages in the Bible and what they had taught her.
The statues are currently housed in the basement of the Gregg Museum of Art and Design in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was let into the dimly lit room and sat with the wee folk for quite some time. Each statue is about 18 inches tall, some with wings, some carrying staffs, all alike but different. Others have described being with the statues as “creepy”, but I felt nothing strange. They are lovely and extraordinary, and I wish that I had the opportunity to see them displayed as Annie intended.