15 1/2 x 59 in.
Wichita Art Museum, Roland P. Murdock Collection
Currently on Display
About the Artwork
This carved relief of our national emblem typifies sculptural production in the United States during the first decades of the Republic. American woodcarvers flourished but they conceived of themselves as craftsmen rather than as artists with a capital “A.” These artisans produced functional objects to ornament ships, architecture, and furnishings. Often leaving their works unsigned, these artists became known to posterity as “anonymous.”
The Wichita Art Museum’s Spread Eagle originally was gilded and hung over a doorway in a home or public building or decorated a ship stern. Carved in relief, this version of the popular symbol presents a silhouette and surface of surprising complexity. When Elizabeth Navas, selected this piece for the Murdock collection she intended to pay homage to an indigenous tradition of craftsmen and self-taught artists. Navas, like the modernists, admired the power and eloquence achieved by simple means and abstracted forms.