This object—assembled from a rusted shovel head, a piece of garden hose, and some wire—likely served as a scarecrow protecting Hawkins Bolden’s garden in Memphis, Tennessee. It may originally have been affixed to a piece of wood or to the fence surrounding his yard. Metal objects often serve as heads in Bolden’s figurative work, and this expressive sculpture is punctured with three holes, two of which form vacant eyes. The shovel’s center curve renders a nose, and the bottom hole suggests a mouth. Bolden sometimes used materials that soften sound, such as carpet, blankets, or rubber shoe soles—here, rubber hose—as tongues.
A gardener and a cleaner of alleys, yards, and vacant lots in his Memphis, Tennessee, neighborhood, Hawkins Bolden (1914–2005) routinely collected discarded items. He carried them home, where he used them to create a multisensory garden. In a space underneath his shotgun house or in his backyard, he transformed the castoff materials into potent scarecrows to protect his vegetable garden. Blind from age seven or eight, Bolden created his figurative objects largely by touch. He also used the abandoned materials to make wind-propelled constructions that featured sound, which offered another level of protection in his urban garden.