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S. L. Jones


Folk artist Shields Landon Jones (October 17, 1901-December 15, 1997) was widely recognized for his hand-carved, painted wood sculptures. Jones was born on a farm in western Monroe County, one of 11 children. Remarking on his childhood, Jones said, ‘‘I wasn’t a very good student because I spent too much time drawing pictures.’’ He spent his adult life in Summers County, working 46 years in railroad construction. Jones, a Primitive Baptist, began his artistic career following retirement.

Discovered in 1972 at Pipestem State Park by the nationally renowned folk art collector, Herbert Wade Hemphill Jr., Jones moved from small whittled animals to the human figure, beginning with portrait-size heads. His sculpture is smoothly contoured, complemented by flat colors applied to facial features, hair, and clothing. Jones attached carved accents, notably crisp bow ties for men and hemispheric breasts for women, with some of his figures carrying musical instruments, tools, or other objects.

When declining health forced Jones to cease carving, he concentrated on drawing and painting, which has been collected as ‘‘Outsider’’ or non-academic art. His artwork is in the permanent collections of the National Museum of American Art, the Museum of American Art, the Museum of American Folk Art, and the West Virginia State Museum. Jones’s creations were sold in art galleries from New York to Texas.

Written by Fawn Valentine


  1. Lampell, Ramona & Millard Lampell. O, Appalachia: Artists of the Southern Mountains. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1989.

  2. Yelen, Alice Rae. Passionate Visions of the American South: Self-Taught Artists from 1940 to the Present. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1995.