Advanced Search

Horney: Top to Bottom

Horney: Top to Bottom

Artist: Billie Ray Hussey (Born in Seagrove, North Carolina, 1955)
Culture: American
Date: 1994
Medium: Red glazed earthernware
Dimensions:
8 x 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches (20.3 x 19.1 x 19.1 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Promised gift of Bruce Lineker, A.B.’86
Label Text:American potters have been making face jugs for more than 200 years. The works here are recent examples of this age-old tradition by Billy Ray Hussey of North Carolina and Jerry Brown of Alabama. The glaze, detailing and size of these vessels may differ, but they share formal characteristics such as flared nostrils, prominent mouths, and wide-eyed gazes. In all three works, these dramatic features give the jugs confrontational, even frightening, facial expressions. In fact, one of the primary functions of the face jug was to scare children away from the contents, since jugs often stored things like moonshine or, in the case of Brown's black jar, cookies.

The devilish aspects of Horney: Top to Bottom and Devil Face Jug point to another historical function of face jugs in the United States. Examples of face jugs created by slave potters in the early 19th century suggest that these objects have not only European origins, but African ones as well. There is evidence that the African Americans who produced face jugs in the 1800s treated them as ritual artifacts, using them to protect their homes and the gravesites of their loved ones. Face jugs thus took on the appearance of the devil in order to ward off evil spirits. One account claims that when a face jug that guarded a grave broke, it was a sign that the spirit of the deceased was wrestling with the devil.

Object number: L.9.2008.5