Vernon Burwell grew up in a sharecropping community in North Carolina. He lived with many different families while young and eventually got a job working for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. A self-taught artist, when Burwell retired he began making sculptures and created an environment of painted and concrete animals and other figures, which he displayed in his yard. His work was applauded by many curators and museums, and he is featured in volume one of "Souls Grown Deep," by Bill Arnett.
Kohler Foundation has acquired two of Burwell's smaller sculptures, a cougar and a tiger, which have been conserved and placed in the collection of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.