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“Standing wonderfully proud and tall, the majestic barns of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country are decorated in a unique manner quite unlike anywhere else in America. Images of stars painted in brilliant colors serve as focal points in the farmscapes of southeastern Pennsylvania. Large enough to be seen from great distances, these so-called hex signs, or barn stars accent an otherwise ordinary agricultural building, elevating it beyond mere utility to a level of folk art. Many of these designs are celestial, depicting sunbursts and geometric stars of varying numbers of points. Other designs are floral, featuring radial bursts of petals in organic patterns. In a not-so-distant past, these barn decorations saturated the rural landscape of southeastern Pennsylvania, and only a fraction of those historical examples have survived to the present day. In the 1950’s, with the rise of regional tourism, the art form changed from the strictly geometic designs found on barns to include other folk art motifs such as hearts, flowers, and birds. It also became popular to assign meanings to each of these modern designs. Although no one quite knows what the first barn painter had in mind when they painted stars on the barn, it is easy to recognize an interest and reverence for the heavens and the forces of nature in folk art.”


Excerpt from
HEX SIGNS: Myth and Meaning in Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Stars
by Patrick Donmoyer

Available online

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