Biography

Ned Cartledge was born the fifth child in a family of six, and grew up in Atlanta and Austell, GA. His family left Canon after the failure of the bank in which his father had worked as a cashier. During part of his childhood, his mother operated a boarding house in downtown Atlanta. From 1936 to 1960 Cartledge worked as a “cotton classer” for Anderson Clayton and Company, taking a leave of absence during World War II to serve as an enlisted man and later as a first lieutenant in a mortar battalion that saw action in Europe. “I whittled as a child, using my mother’s paring knife. I didn’t own a pocketknife until I was twelve years old. When we moved to Atlanta in 1930, my carving practically stopped due to lack of motivation,” Cartledge says. “But when I married,” he jokingly comments, “my chain was pretty tight. So I stayed home and took it up again. At the Cotton States Arbitration Board, I had days with nothing to do, so I carved.” A gift of X-Acto knives also helped to rekindle his love of carving. Later on, he says, “I was one of the ‘old’ people who opposed the Vietnam war and felt that I ought to speak out.” Ned Cartledge’s “speaking out” took the form of political commentary through sculpture. In 1978, Atlanta folk art dealer Judith Alexander discovered Cartledge’s work, and she helped him gain a broader audience. In 1969, he was awarded second prize and in 1970 best of show at the Savannah Arts Festival; in 1971, he received a purchase award from the Arts festival in Atlanta, Georgia. Cartledge carved bas-reliefs illustrating his strong political, religious and social opinions with a sense of humor. His primary subject matter is contemporary politics. He found “trickle-down economics” a revolting theory (“it’s the poor who need help”) and commented on this subject through several of his works. Not all of the artist’s work is political or in the bas-relief format. He carves birds, cats, and fish, and one of the first works Cartledge ever sold was a three dimensional watermelon slice. He also made carved boxes before he moved on to the bas-reliefs. His work is in the collection of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA; the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City and the Museum of International Folk Art in Sante Fe, NM.

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