Best known for his figure stone carvings, Ernest "Popeye" Reed was born in Jackson, Ohio. Reed was called "Popeye" since his school days; he left home at age fourteen to become a cabinetmaker. At this time he began to carve in wood. In his later life, he tood odd jobs as a carpenter and sold his walnut wood carvings to augment his income. By 1964 Reed was selling his carvings as tourist items by the roadside. By 1968 he was able to become a full-time artist, and had begun to include sandstone and limestone carvings in his repertoire. He work had matured from that the level of craft to the level of art.
Reed began showing his work in various places, including state fairs where often he could be found demonstrating stone-carving and wood-carving techniques. In 1980, Reed was featured in "Folk Art from Ohio Collections," at the Ohio State Fair.
His subject matter ranges from mythological figures, biblical figures, to wood carvings of American Indians dressed in leather clothing. Reed studied Greek mythology and encyclopedias for inspiration. The size of his major works in stone ranges from less than a foot to five feet; his wood carvings of American Indians are life-size.
There is currently no monograph on Reed available.
Source: Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists, New York, 1990, 254-255.
Selected Museum Collections:
American Museum of Folk Art, New York
The Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.