Chester Cornett Rocker, ca. 1975
You've brought in an amazing chair today-- I should say a rocker. We know that this was made by Chester Cornett from Dwarf County, Kentucky. Can you tell us a little bit about how you first got the chair?
One of my neighbors introduced me to one of his friends, who was a photographer for a local newspaper, and he told me he had something in his basement he thought I'd like to see. And the chair was there, and the reason it was in his basement was his wife didn't like it. So he told me it was for sale, and I thought about it a couple of days and I bought the chair.
Here's Chester Cornett standing next to the chair. And he was a chairmaker making traditional chairs starting at the age of 15. So he started when he was a young boy, and he got very skilled at the craft and he was actually selling them. But this chair was made for his own use. The idea of this chair with these serpents carved out of mahogany came to him in a dream. Chester Cornett had a troubled life. He was always living in poverty. He had emphysema throughout his life. Also he had a lot of marital discord. But this chair tells us a little bit about the folk artist and what impulses are there that make someone create something like this. It was really a dream that came to him. He felt no choice but to make this chair. It's an incredible piece of 20th-century folk art. Made about 1975.
And what did you pay for the chair? Can you tell us?
I paid $800 for it in 1981.
Well, 100 years from now it's going to be amazing to look back at this. Also, there's a piece by this artist in the Museum of American Folk Art in new York. And also, once, Chester Cornett donated a piece to the White House. Was that to Richard Nixon?
Yes, to President Nixon.
As a piece of folk art of the future, this rocker is probably worth somewhere in the area of $3,000 to $5,000 right now in value.
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