Navigation Menu
The Dennos Museum Center

The Folk Art of Wesley Merritt: A God-Given Talent

June 20 - September 5, 2010

Born March 10, 1926 in Midland, Michigan, Wesley Merritt was one of Northern Michigan's most sought-after folk art sculptors up to his death in 2004. Having worked previously as a boiler tender, janitor, and all around handyman, Merritt was self-employed as artist-in-residence and proprietor of "Wesley's Wood Carvings and Wonder Shop" in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. He called it that because "people wander in and they 'wonder' what I got in all this junk."

A self-taught wood carver who attributed his abilities to a "god-given talent," Wesley produced several hundred folk sculptures between 1960 and 2004. Many of his pieces now reside in museums and important private collections across the country.

His work has a certain naïve charm about it that is as hard to resist as his philosophy: "I'm happy with a piece of log...and money enough to get chisels and carve...I do it mostly ‘cuz I love it. I don't want to sell it much. I do sell it, but I do it more or less ‘cuz I love it. If you don't love it, don't do it. I don't think we will ever get rich, but in our hearts we are rich in peace of mind. I'm most generally happy through Christ. Without Jesus we wouldn't know how to carve. If it's the will of God, we're gonna have a lot of strange things around here." Wesley Merritt.

The works in this exhibition are on loan from the private collections of Dewey Blocksma and Sandra Hulst, Gary L. Miller, and Sally Viskochil. The exhibition also features photographs by and on loan from J. Kyle Keener. J. Kyle Keener is the award-winning former chief photographer for the Detroit Free Press who now runs his own company based in Ferndale. To see more of his work visit