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West Virginia Folklore Murals

West Virginia Folklore Murals

Fairmont State University
Fairmont, West Virginia
Created as part of artist residency, 1992

These murals illustrate folklore and ghost stories collected by my aunt, Dr. Ruth Ann Musick. Most can be found in her books The Telltale Lilac Bush and Coffin Hollow, both published by University Press of Kentucky (www.kentuckypress.com).

West Virginia Ghost Stories
Enameled Steel; 3' 4" X 10'

Images in this mural depict numerous genres of ghosts including hitchhiking, farming, mining, and railroad ghosts, as well as Civil War ghosts and ghost animals. Throughout her teaching career, my aunt collected ghost stories from her students, many of whom were the first generation in their families to attend college. The stories were family lore or tales connected with particular places. All exemplify classic folklore motifs; for example: ghost returns to aid living; ghost  haunts place of misfortune; speaking animals; return from dead to reveal hidden fortune. The background hills depict West Virginia landscapes through the seasons: at left, a mine tipple in winter; moving toward the right, fiery autumn color, greens of high summer, and pale green forests of spring, on hills above the New River.

West Virginia Folklore

West Virginia Folklore
Enameled Copper; 4' 2" X 4' 6"

The images in this mural are drawn from children's rhymes, folk sayings, ghost stories, and tales from Europe brought by Appalachia's waves of immigrants. My father illustrated his sister's books; some of my images are an homage to his illustrations. The rag doll leaning against the tombstone was his picture for a story about a little ghost girl who frequents a one-room schoolhouse, saying she lost her rag doll, until a new teacher is brave enough and thoughtful enough to make a new doll and give it to the child, who then vanishes. The teacher later learns that a child was murdered near there a generation before; on a walk in the woods, she stumbles upon the very doll she made, leaning against an overgrown headstone. On the right side of the mural, the skeleton hand comes from my father's illustration to "The Telltale Lilac Bush," in which the branches of a lilac bush beat against a window when there is no breeze. Upon digging it up, neighbors find the skeleton of the householder's wife, who had mysteriously disappeared some time before. Other images include a leprechaun and a wolf, references to Irish and European tales; three geese, from a children's rhyme; willows that form a heart, from a story of ill-fated lovers. The foliage was inspired by the  flowering of West Virginia forests in spring: wild roses, dogwood, rhododendrons, springing from deep brown leaf carpets--tulip poplar, oak, and maple--of previous autumns.

 

Pat Musick - musickstudio