Willie Tarver worked hard all his life to be a successful provider for his family and it was on his job repairing cooling systems that he first picked up a welder’s torch.
He began his work as an artist in the late 1950’s, making cement tombstones, some of which can still be seen in the local cemetery. His early creations outside of the graveyard were large painted cement figures. These were created over metal armatures that he constructed out of scrap metal which he welded and cut. Eventually the armatures become the art pieces themselves, as he experimented with finishing them off without cement.
In addition to figures of people having fun, Willie also created figures of humans in pain and anguish to illustrate lessons or historical events. His animal figures often had combined features of several species, giving them an otherworldly effect. He referred to the animals as “Egyptian,” citing the artistic representations of animals in ancient Egypt.
Before succumbing to lung cancer in 2010, Willie constructed a fantastic garden of cement in his backyard on Tarver St.
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Willie's version of the southern pottery face jug is made of cement with mirrors imbedded.
10" x 9" x 6"
This man is struggling under the burden of alcohol. He has already dropped and stumbled over his empty glass.
Willie and his wife Mae worked together on projects in cement. While Willie began to work more and more with metal, Mae continues to work in cement. She doesn't always differentiate her work from Willie's. She says "It's all Tarver."