One of the more interesting finds I’ve made recently was the works of Freeman Vines.
Vines, an 78-year old luthier and musician from Greene County, NC. Has been making guitars for over 50 years, but has only recently found fame with a book, Hanging Tree Guitars co-written by Vines and Zoe van Buren, with copious vintage-style tintypes of Vines and his guitars taken by Timothy Duffy. Duffy is the president of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which provides financial support to traditional musicians in the South, and helped publish the book, along with boosting the work of Vines and many other musicians.
The title refers to the most famous of Vine’s works, a series of guitars carved from a tree that was in a lynching. Vines was quoted as saying:
“Working with that wood was a spiritual thing… Not good, not bad, and not ugly. But just strange.”
Using his art, Vines brings the dark racial history of the South to light, resisting the obfuscation and whitewashing that has been employed from Jim Crow to the “New South” of today.
Vines has carved guitars from a dazzling array of materials, from pieces of barns, to troughs, to pianos. He creates guitars that serve as both sculpture and functioning instruments.
All photos by Timothy Duffy.
In addition to the book (which I haven’t read, but will buy soon), Vines’ guitars are currently being exhibited at museums across the South.