Being new to The Filson, I frequently find intriguing bits of history winking at me from an office or hallway, perched on a mantelpiece, or looming on the stairs. But the whimsical figures of the Derby Clock are particular standouts – playful sculptures that evoke both the varied history of this state and the imaginative spirit of their creator, Barney Bright.
Bright designed the Derby Clock in the 1970’s for the city of Louisville. This ornamental clock was structured as an elevated race track, with five Kentucky historical figures contesting each other for a win at noon each day. Bright also sculpted observers to the race, significant historical figures as well, watching from a gazebo. Unfortunately, the Clock had mechanical problems, but apparently it's being restored and should soon be placed for viewing at the Louisville Zoo.
Here’s the fun part for me – in addition to the Clock, Bright also designed 250 collector’s sets of the racing figures, miniature versions of the statues on the Clock. These include George Rogers Clark, dashing in a green cloak and sword; Thomas Jefferson, genteel in a cart even as he clutches his horse’s tail; and my favorite, the Belle of Louisville, perched on a wave, legs in an elegant curve as her feet embrace a steamboat wheel - the personification of joy.
Lu Ann Weinstein donated these hand-painted, pewter sculptures to The Filson, and they truly demonstrate the power of both history and creativity.