In December, we drove up to Palmyra, Tennessee to visit the concrete sculptures of E.T. Wickham.
From the Nashville Scene:
Using tin cans, coat hangers, stovepipes, bed rails, old auto parts, and whatever else he could find to create an armature, he went on to mold enormous, sometimes 800-pound figures out of a self-styled mix of masonry concrete. After meticulously painting them, he then added a wild assortment of riches: Blue light bulbs became the eyes of a bull; real eyeglasses rested on the nose of Estes Kefauver; a saber was placed in the hands of Gen. Jackson. Then Wickham would adorn each sculpture with messages. On one, in which Paul Bunyan sits atop a rearing bull, he etched the base with these words: “ET WICKHAM HEADED FOR THE WILD AND WOLEY WEST REMEMBER ME BOYS WHILE I AM GONE.”
It seems as though the works were generally created in a twenty year span between the early 1950s and late 1969. This was Andrew Jackson on his horse, dedicated 1961
E.T. Wickham was born in 1883 grew up being known as ‘Tanner’ or ‘Tank’ in the family. His father passed away when Tanner was nine, and though his older brother, who had gone to Vanderbilt and was practicing as a country doctor tried to step in, Tanner resented it.
From this excellent biographical sketch, E.T. got married in 1906 and had a disagreement with the rural mail carrier that serviced his route, who said to E.T. “If I never have to see your face again, it’ll be too soon.” In turn, E.T. constructed, as the legend goes, his first concrete work, which was a mailbox with E.T.’s face on it.
A timeline here.
This piece by Dan Price on the art environment (and others) is worthwhile as well.
A number of the pieces have been moved behind a fence to help further protect them
Religiously, E.T. Wickham converted to Catholicism in adulthood and his first piece had been the Virgin Mary. One piece I found on him noted that he had gained inspiration in his works from a visit to Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama. In fact, his daughter Nora (Sister Justine) resided at Sacred Heart Convent there.
Doctor John Wickham — E.T.’s brother
The cabin Wickham built in the 1950s
Nearby, the Wickham Cemetery where E.T. Wickham constructed monuments for family members. He passed away in 1970.