About the artist Philip Hulsey’s life journey has been guided by a passion for art and a strong connection to nature. These two forces have played an important role in his life, ideas, and art. A native of Chincoteague Island, Virginia, he received a BA in Art from VPI. The university experience gave way to a journey of exploration and adventure. Many travels led to New Orleans and Miami, where he taught Art in both city’s public school systems for seven years. Later he applied his creative abilities to landscape design through his company Blue Zebra Landscapes, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This twenty-five year long career kept his hands in the earth, re-connecting Philip to nature in an urban environment, while offering an artistic outlet. Upon retirement in 2019 he has made Western North Carolina his home. Here, Philip’s most recent artistic creation, Trail Spirit Masks, was born. His tree-hugging love of nature, animistic beliefs, and fascination with mythology have been the influences behind this series of sculptures.
About the art Trail Spirits Masks bring a fresh and surprising approach to the art of Appalachia. The non-traditional use of gourds as masks deviates from their traditional use as utilitarian objects or folk art, and the use of recognizable natural materials the artist collects locally lends an Appalachian character to Trail Spirits. Each unique mask addresses a various aspect of nature as its theme. Masks are believed to evoke the spirits they represent, allowing the wearer of the mask to act as a medium to that spirit. However, Trail Spirit Masks are not worn but displayed on the wall. They may not conjure up any spirits, but they do project a presence and personality. They are also believed to ward off bad spirits and bring good luck to your home.