Freeman Vines: Hanging Tree Guitars

September 1 – November 27, 2022


Opening Reception is Thursday, September 1, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Hors d’oeuvres will be served. 

Tim Duffy lecture October 20, 6:00 pm

Tim Duffy is the founder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve and support our nation’s musical traditions by improving the lives of the artists who make them. The Foundation concentrates on the essential musical traditions of the South: blues, gospel, string band, folk, Native American, and singer-songwriter. The foundation has supported Freeman Vines’ work and partnered with him to produce the Hanging Tree Guitars book and exhibition.

To meet Freeman Vines (b. 1942) is to meet America itself. An artist, a luthier, and a spiritual philosopher, Vines’s life is a witness to the truths and contradictions of the American South. He remembers the hidden histories of the eastern North Carolina land on which his family has lived since enslavement. For more than fifty years Vines has transformed materials culled from a forgotten landscape in his relentless pursuit of building a guitar capable of producing a singular tone that has haunted his dreams. From tobacco barns, mule troughs, and radio parts he has created hand-carved guitars, each instrument seasoned down to the grain by the echoes of its past life.

In 2015, Vines befriended photographer and folklorist, Timothy Duffy (b.1963) and the two began to document the guitars and Vines’s life story. Soon after, Vines acquired the lumbered boards of the tree on which Oliver Moore was lynched in 1930. Confronting the silences and memories of this dark episode in his local history brought Vines face to face with the toll of racial terror on his own life and work.

Freeman Vines is a self-taught luthier and sculptor born in Greene County, North Carolina. He has worked as a sharecropper, auto-body repair man, and luthier. The first public display of his work was in February 2020 as part of the group show We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South at the Turner Contemporary in the UK.

Timothy Duffy has been recording and photographing traditional artists in the South since the age of 16, when he became interested in ethnomusicology. Duffy earned an MA from the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC and lives in Hillsborough, NC. Duffy’s photographs are in permanent collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Morris Museum of Art, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Contact the Museum to schedule school tours.

Educational Essays


Installation Images

Timothy Duffy, Freeman Vines, Hanging Tree Guitars, No. 2, 2015.
Pigment print, 40 x 40 inches.

Installation View

Freeman Vines, Death Mask, 1980. Wall Mount, 42 x 2.5 x 8.5 inches.

Listen to the album for free. Click the image below.

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Individual Sponsors

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