First published: Spring 2023


A moment of inspiration after a life-changing accident led mill worker Clyde Jones to create his famous roadside menagerie


“I wake up some mornings with a head full of stuff, and a lot of mine is handed down to me from up above,” Clyde Jones told author Robert Peacock. “Whatever my mind’s got on it, that’s what I’m gonna do. Welcome to my world with fish, whales, dolphins, butterflies, snakes, turtles, penguins, and all that.”


Jones at home in 2022, photo: Bill Sasser


Often a man of few words, the prolific North Carolina artist opened up to Peacock and photographer Karekin Goekjian for their 1998 book Light of the Spirit: Portraits of Southern Outsiders. A former mill worker and logger in Chatham County, North Carolina, Jones was already well on his way to becoming perhaps the state’s most well-known artist. In the small community of Bynum, his little millhouse, with its yard full of “chainsaw critters” has attracted thousands of visitors over the decades.


Jones painted critters on his clapboard house, photo: Ted Degener, 1996


“I drove over 500 miles to see your critters,” a pilgrim wrote in one of the many guest books that have been kept over the years, recording visitors from dozens of nations and every US state. “Clyde, you are a treasure!”


Jones filled his garden with “chainsaw critters”, photos: Ted Degener, 1990


Aged 86, Jones now lives in a nursing home and has mostly retired as an artist. During his heyday, he made a staggering number of his wood animal sculptures, in all shapes and colours – polka-dotted giraffes, hot-pink piggies, purple trumpeting storks, to name but a few. On the clapboards of his house, hand-painted dolphins jump and penguins dance, as curvy white snakes slide up the chimney. He could often be found on his porch, covered in sawdust and paint.




This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #114.

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