These sculptures were originally part of the indoor art environment of Annie Hooper: 121 of them densely covered the floor of one of her bedrooms, and thirty crowded her dining room. Over a thirty-five-year period, this overwhelming installation evolved on all spare spaces of her Outer Banks house. As a whole, it formed 300 biblical scenes composed of nearly 5,000 thousand sculptures made of driftwood, putty, cement, and seashells, showing the improvement of her technique over time.
She materialized this creative activity at age fifty, after returning from treatment for emotional distress triggered by her fear of losing her only son, who had been sent to the South Pacific during World War 2, and had developed an illness. She reported to historian Roger Manley—who saved her work from destruction—that she “heard voices and angels guiding her to create figures” which “were to reveal the more pleasant, life-affirming aspects of Christian storytelling.”
A religiously devout woman, she animated this cast of characters in vignettes—the Children of Israel; animals from the Valley of the Shadow of Death; the Exodus; Daniel in the Lions’ Den; the Sermon on the Mount—through performative tours, engaging interactive narrations while moving across narrow pathways. In 1978, when her beloved husband suffered a stroke, she started using handwritten placards for a self-guided tour, translating her personal reading of the Bible from her own experiences of loneliness and loss.
Annie Hooper, interviewed by Catherine Peck (1897–1986)
Catherine Peck Collection, 1981–1988
1984, audio recording
Southern Folklife Collection, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC
Courtesy of Roger Manley