ctsprinterlife: OTR 8.0: Mississippi Part 3

Muddy Waters

Clarksdale

After completing the final portion of the Trans America Trail we traveled to Clarksdale to begin our exploration of the Mississippi Delta. Clarksdale is generally considered to be the home of the Delta Blues with an impressive roster of musicians calling Clarksdale their home in their early years (see previous post: Street Art from the Road: OTR 8.0: Part Two: Clarksdale Music and Art at http://www.ontheroadwithmariastephen.net.

Clarksdale boasts live Blues music every day of the year at one or more of the local blues clubs, bars or juke joints. The town itself is a bit hardscrabble but please don’t let that keep you away. Even if you are not a fan of the blues we think you will enjoy the live performances that take place at the various venues in town, all of which are very intimate and, you will hear the real Blues. Typically, you will pay $10 – $15 for a show that will run from two to four hours!

Ground Zero Blues Club

We opted to stay in an apartment above the Ground Zero Blues Club which is convenient-unless you plan on sleeping before midnight. We were in town to hear the Blues, so we figured it was all part of the experience. https://www.groundzerobluesclub.com/

Clarksdale is also home to the Delta Blues Museum. We spent a morning at the museum and learned a lot about the history of the Blues, the musicians and the Blues recording industry. There is a treasure trove of artifacts at the museum including musical instruments and performers’ stage costumes. We highly recommend a visit to the museum when you visit Clarksdale. We don’t have photographs to share with you as they are not allowed in the musuem.

There are several excellent restaurants in town in addition to the customary BBQ. We highly recommend Hooker Grocery & Eatery which is a two minute walk from the museum. https://www.hookergrocer.com P.S. If you like pancakes make sure to try Our Grandma’s House of Pancakes.

Last, but certainly not least, we recommend a visit to Hambone Art & Music. We popped into this gallery for a quick look around and then spent several hours with the owner Stan Street. He is a transplant to Mississippi and was a touring musician before settling here and focusing on his painting.

Stan bought a vacant building and converted it into his gallery in the front, his studio in the rear and his apartment above. He also operates a small bar in the studio and has a stage for musical performances. We really like his artwork and we were amazed to find out that he is largely a self-taught artist.

Greenville – do not, we repeat, do not get your car washed!

We visited Greenville after reading that there is a state park there with a hiking trail along the Mississippi and a 60 foot tall observation tower that provides fantastic views along the Mississippi River. WRONG! The park was turned over to Greenville and the town has not maintained the park other than the small boardwalk when you first enter the park. This was our first disappointment with Greenville.

As we were leaving town we spotted a self service car wash and pulled in to hose the van off – you may have noticed in our photographs the Beast is in perpetual need of a wash. Immediately, a man told me he was an employee and would wash the vehicle – a minute later another man showed up and informed me he was going to help wash the car and then a third man showed up to help wash the car.

At his point we knew we had a problem – none of these guys worked at the car wash and that this was a shake down. We were able to persuade the third man that he was not going to get paid (although he hung around circling us). At that point, we told the two guys (taking turn hosing off the van) that we were good. The first of the gentlemen demanded $60.00 for the wash. We settled on a more reasonable amount and left town quickly.

Cleveland, or “fear the okra”

We stopped in Cleveland for coffee at Zoe Coffee. We met some nice folks at the coffee shop and learned that the coffee shop is affliated with Zoe Ministries, which focuses on providing clean water, orphan care, widow care, and education to communities in Kenya. https://zoeempowers.org/

Cleveland is also home to Delta State University. The mascot for the athletic teams is the Okra and the school chant is ”Fear the Okra!”. This is the best mascot and chant we have ever encountered! Look for DSU merchandise by the pool this summer. P.S. The men’s baseball team went 32-15 this year and is currently in Florida for the NCAA Division II regional tournament.

Vicksburg, or, it’s all about the war , no wait, it’s really all about the river

Vicksburg, MS is undoubtedly best known as the site of a major Civil War Battle which was a turning point in the war in favor of the Union. We were keen on visiting the Vicksburg National Military Park (VNMP) to gain a better understanding of this historic battle and see the battlefield.

The Mississippi River was a critical supply route for the Confederacy. Vicksburg sits on a bluff high above the eastern side of the river and was heavily fortified with artillery to stop Union forces from cutting off this essential supply route. The Union forces knew that taking control of the river would seal the defeat of the South.

After several failed Union attempts to take Vicksburg, General U.S. Grant laid seige to Vicksburg. Grant surrounded the city with over 77,000 troops. The 29.000 Confederate troops dug in to defend the city. Confederate attempts to break through the encircled city and resupply the soldiers and citizens failed. After 47 days, with all food and water supplies exhausted, the troops and citizens surrendered; the mighty Mississippi was under Union control. For additional information: https://www.nps.gov/vick/index.htm

In addition to the battlefield, there is a museum in the park which includes the remains of the Union ironclad gunboat USS Cairo. The Cairo was sunk by Confederate torpedos seven miles north of Vicksburg. It slipped back into the river after being beached and abandoned. Over 100 years later the ironclad was raised, restored and given to the National Park Service. For additional information: https://www.nps.gov/vick/u-s-s-cairo-gunboat.htm

Historic downtown Vicksburg is perched above the river south of the main artillery emplacements and battlefield. A number of excellent restaurants, rooftop bars and art galleries can be found there. The Jesse Bent Lower Mississippi River Museum, managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, is on the waterfront and worth a visit.

The Mississippi River is still a vital supply route for the US economy. The Corps, one of the largest employers in the area, is responsible for commercial navigation, flood risk management and environmental stewardship.

A visit to the museum also includes the opportunity to tour the retired M/V Mississippi IV. The Mississippi IV was a tow boat used by the Army Corp from 1961 until 1993 when it was retired.

M/V Mississippi IV (Photo courtesy of Army Corp)

Our endless search for good coffee and tea took us to Highway 61 Coffee House in downtown Vicksburg. Highway 61 is a local coffee house with a cast of characters. We immediately ingratiated ourselves with the owner Daniel Boone – yes! – and his cohorts by making a donation to their poporn machine fund.

When Daniel Boone and his friends are not serving or drinking coffee they are the leaders of a local art movie house and amateur theater company. The popcorn machine that they have been utilizing for the last 14 years (on loan) for movie nights is going to be taken back by the owner.

Our donation to the fund earned us a private guided tour of the Strand Theater with Jack Burns – a board member and coffee shop regular. The Strand was a movie theater until it closed in 1963. The building remained vacant for a number of years until the theater group struck a deal with the owner to lease the facility for both live theater performances and screening movies. The interior was renovated by volunteers from the community who were very interested in having an opportunity to see art house movies and community theater. An excellent history of the building can be found at Urban Decay: https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2011/04/strand-theatre-vicksburg-mississippi.html Strand Theater: http://www.strandvicksburg.com/

While we might attempt to live on coffee, tea, and wine, we are reasonably certain that as pleasant as that scenario sounds it would not work in the long run. So, we went in search of victuals during our Vicksburg visit and found a gem just outside of downtown. The Tomato Place started as a roadside produce stand and evolved into a restaurant and mercantile in addition to a produce stand- all still sitting roadside in a collection of colorful shacks. The Tomato Place is a must when you visit Vicksburg. For more information: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/mississippi/you-havent-lived-until-youve-tried-the-blt-from-the-tomato-place-in-ms/

Jackson, or hello, art minton

While in Vicksburg we decided to pop over to Jackson to see some minor league baseball. Jackson is home to the Mississippi Braves – the Double A affliliate of the Atlanta Braves. It also gave us the excuse to listen to the Johnny Cash – June Carter Cash version of the song Jackson for the entire ride from Vicksburg to Jackson. “We got married in a fever. Hotter than a peppered sprout. We’ve been talking bout Jackson ever since the fire went out. Oh, we’re going to Jackson.” Dang, that’s good music!!

The Natchez Trace runs just north of Jackson. We have driven the majority of the Trace during the course of several trips through Mississippi but had never done any biking as part of our travels along the Trace. Jackson provided a great opportunity to do so as the Chischa Fokka Greenway runs parallel to the Trace for a number of miles. It’s a great trail that cuts through Pine stands and farmland as you head north from Jackson.

Chischa Fokka Greenway

We enjoyed our brief stay in Jackson with the added bonus of meeting @art.minton. Art is a fellow van adventurer who lives in Jackson and we follow each other on Instagram. He spotted our van while we were leaving Pig and Pint after having just finished dinner—Serendipity—Very cool!

The road to Rodney

We decided to visit Rodney after reading an interesting article in Mississippi Folk Life about efforts by a local organization to preserve the remains of Rodney. The town was once a thriving Mississippi River port city. Migration from Rodney started in earnest after 1870 – Rodney had been bombarded during the Civil War by Union gun boats, enslaved individuals were emancipated and left the cotton plantations and finally, the course of the river shifted two miles west and Rodney was no longer a port city. For an excellent history of Rodney: http://www.mississippifolklife.org/articles/haunted-by-a-ghost-town-the-lure-of-rodney-mississippi

Getting to Rodney takes a bit of work. The only road to Rodney is a bumpy and muddy dirt road affair but you know we never say no to the chance for a bit of mud on the fenders.

On our way to Rodney we drove through Port Gibson. Like many other southern cities during the mid-twentieth century, Port Gibson’s elected leaders and businesses were still fighting against integration and equal rights for Black citizens. That eventually led to the Boycott of 1966. The photo below from a mural in town depicts the demands. ‘Nuff said! https://mississippiencyclopedia.org/entries/port-gibson-claiborne-county-civil-rights-movement/

We also happened on the Windsor Ruins after departing Rodney. The Ruins was an antebellum Greek Revival Mansion built (by enslaved African-Americans) for a wealthy cotton planter and his wife. Today, 23 of the Corinthian coloumns are still standing. The mansion survived the Civil War (the owner did not) but burned in 1890. It was the largest Greek Revival home in Mississippi. Today it is an historic site and there are plans to complete some restoration of the columns and the grounds. For more information: https://www.mdah.ms.gov/explore-mississippi/windsor-ruins

Natchez —— Steampunk anyone?

Natchez was our final stop before crossing the Mississippi into Louisiana. First stop, as always, was for espresso and tea and our research pointed to Steampunk. There we met Dub Rogers, the owner of this unique establishment. Dub Rogers was born in Mississippi but spent 30 years living and working in NYC in a variety of businesses.

Steampunk represents an amalgamation of Dub’s many interests. The shop and haberdashery sells fine cigars, coffee, tea, chocolate, conservas, mixology gear and hats (see Maria’s newest addition above) of which Dub has endless knowledge. Dub is a great host – and we almost forgot to mention that he personally renovated the handsome space that houses his boutique department store, apartment and patio.

Natchez dates back to 1716 when French traders built a Fort on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi. The French settlement came to an abrupt end when the Natchez Indians attacked the fort, killing several hundred people and enslaving a number of women and children The surviving French left the territory toute suite.

Future President Andrew Jackson built a trading post near Natchez in 1789. The trading post traded in African-American slaves. This set the course for Natchez to become a hub for slave trading – one of the most active in the South.

With the wealth accumulated from the slave and cotton trade Natchez became one of the wealthiest cities in America prior to the Civil War. Today many of the lavish antebellum homes are still standing and open for touring. Because Natchez was prized by both sides due to its location, the Union forces did not destroy it when they occupied the city.

You now know where to go for all your caffeine needs in Natchez. Here are a couple of suggestions for dining: Magnolia Grill, located in the Under-the-Hill section of town down on the river (formerly the vice district of town); and Fat Mama’s Tamales is the spot for excellent tamales.

Our final foray in Natchez was visiting one of the decidely less glamorous antebellum homes in Natchez. The house is named Longwood but also derisively as Nutt’s Folly. Haller Nutt was a wealthy plantation owner who had an octagonal house designed for him and his family. The house, if completed, would have had 32 rooms.

The outbreak of the Civil War ended the construction of the home as Nutt’s financial position tumbled. Even if he had the funds to continue, work would have stopped because the majority of the craftsman completing the finish work were from Philadephia – they returned to the North as soon as the war began.

The family moved into the basement (originally designed for the house slaves). Nutt died in 1864 and his wife and children hung on to the house for many years with the help of friends and several wealthy relatives. The Nutt family sold the home to the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez in 1968.

The photograph below shows the fingerprints of one of the enslaved individuals who worked on the construction of the home. The Nutt family owned 800 slaves prior to the demise of the family fortune.

Fingerprints of enslaved individual

We hope you enjoyed our final installment regarding our Mississippi exploration, thanks for reading.

Be seeing you!

ctsprinterlife: OTR 8.0 Mississippi Part 2

Hattiesburg — a very brief history

After spending time in Louisianna we traveled north back into Mississippi to visit Hattiesburg. We were up in the air about visiting Hattiesburg but after a conversation with a former resident of Hattiesburg (that we met in Cleveland, Mississippi) we decided to invest a day and check out the town. Additionally, visiting Hattiesburg would provide an opportunity to ride the Longleaf Bike Trail.

Hattiesburg was founded in 1882 by William Hardy and named after his wife Hattie. The land that is now Hattiesburg became available after the Chicksaw and Choctaw peoples were forcibly removed under the Indian Removal Act which allowed the government to relocate the nations to land west of the Mississippi River.

The city thrived in its early days as part of the burgeoning lumber industry (Hattiesburg sits in the Pine Belt) and is known as the Hub City because of the confluence of rail lines running through the city. While the timber industry is not a major economic force today, the city is still a major rail hub with freight lines bisecting the city.

While Hattiesburg was not founded until well after the Civil War, the town nonetheless did its part to uphold the legacy of slavery and segregation. The Black residents of Hattiesburg were still largely unregistered to vote in 1962 due to the efforts of the municipal government to make it impossible for Blacks to qualify to vote. For more information about the Civil Rights Movement in Hattiesburg click on the link: https://mississippiencyclopedia.org/entries/hattiesburg-civil-rights-movement/

Hattiesburg — home of rock ‘n roll?

One facet of Hattiesburg that we were totally unaware of prior to our visit is the claim that Hattiesburg is the true home of Rock ’N Roll. Musicologists have traced the roots of the genre to the Graves brothers – Blind Roosevelt and Uaroy. The brothers started as Gospel singers but in 1936 joined with pianist Cooney Vaughn to form the Mississippi Jook Band. Two of their songs in particular are now viewed as very early Rock ’N Roll songs. These songs, Barbecue Bust and Dangerous Woman, were performed and recorded long before the genre was clearly defined and popular. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pegm79r1zE

Today, many musicologists consider the roots of Rock ’N Roll began in the African American Churches in the South where the music was “rocking and reeling” and instruments other than the organ were used to accompany the singers (out of necessity as the congregations could not afford an organ). An excellent article on this subject: https://countryroadsmagazine.com/art-and-culture/visual-performing-arts/hattiesburg-birthplace-of-rock-n-roll/

Longleaf trail

The Longleaf Trail is a 45.5 mile paved rails-to-trails bikeway. The southern trailhead is in Hattiesburg and the trail runs in a northwest direction terminating in Prentis. We rode out and back on the southern half of the trail from Hattiesburg and the northern half of the trail from Sumral Station (west of Laurel).

Longleaf is a Hall of Fame trail and for good reason. The trail is paved, in excellent condition and passes through beautiful Southern scenery. Surprisingly, we encountered very few other riders on either of our rides. We highly recommend this trail. The round trip is 91 miles – beyond our current range – so we split the trail and enjoyed two rides.

The town

Laurel is not our ”home Town” but it could be!

Laurel was added to our intinary once we decided to visit Hattiesburg. If you are a fan of the HGTV show Home Town you may recognize Laurel as the small town where husband and wife Ben and Erin Napier help folks renovate local homes. As a result of the popularity of the show, the town has attracted many visitors and new residents.

We visited their retail store and woodworking shop while in town, but there were unfortunately no celebrity sightings. We can tell you their two stores are doing a brisk trade! Good for them – the couple has done a lot to help bring back this former lumber industry town.

We arrived in Laurel on the day of the annual crawfish festival. The festival runs from 11AM to 3PM – all you can eat for $15- Classic Low Country Boil – crawfish, sausage, potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn. Live music to boot. Now that is Southern Hospitality!

Laurel has more than the CrawFest and the TV show to offer. There are several excellent restaurants (The Loft….our favorite) and several neigborhoods with streets lined with live oaks and stately homes. Lastly, the former town library was converted and expanded into an art museum with a very nice collection of paintings and sculptures. We have included several photogrpahs of our favorite paintings at the end of this post.

William Hollingworth (1910-1944) The Mystery of a Southern Night, 1941, Oil on canvas
Charly Palmer (1960) Leadbelly c. 2012, Acrylic on canvas
Alfred Conteh (1975) Preme 2020, Acrylic and Atomized brass dust on canvas
John Winslow (1938) Painting in Marcella’s Studio 1982, Oil on canvas
Janet Fish (1938) Pink Scarf and Daffodils 2008, Oil on canvas

This post is our penultimate post on Mississippi as part of OTR 8.0. If you missed our previous posts you can find them at ctsprinterlife: OTR 8.0: Mississippi Part One and Ocean Springs, Mississippi at ontheroadwithmariastephen.net Our final post will cover our exploration of the Mississippi Delta.

Be seeing you!

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

As we planned a rough itinerary through the Southeast for OTR 8.0 we had not contemplated a visit to Ocean Springs. In fact, we had never heard of Ocean Springs.

However, that was before meeting Cynthia Comsky, the owner of the Attic Gallery in Vicksburg, who strongly recommended a visit to the Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs. Subsequently, we saw a watercolor exhibit of Anderson’s at the Lauren Rogers Museum in Laurel, Mississippi and knew we needed to visit Ocean Springs and the Walter Anderson Museum.

Much to our delight, the museum met all of our expectations and we found the town itself to be a quaint and friendly destination. In fact, we extended our stay to enjoy the charms of the town and the its friendly inhabitants.

Walter Anderson Museum

”Beware by whom you are called sane.” —- Walter Inglis Anderson

Sissy at the Table c.1933 Oil on board

So, of course, our first stop (well, second after coffee – see below on that topic) was the Walter Anderson Museum. The museum is physically attached to the town community center – which is appropriate as its walls are adorned with murals he created (and was paid a meager one dollar). The museum itself is filled with his works as one might expect – however one might not expect to find water colors, oils, wood sculptures, woodblock prints, pencil and ink drawings all by the same artist. His work in each of these mediums is outstanding.

New Orleans Street Scene, c. 1963, Oil on board

Anderson’s personal and professional life was inextricably meshed together. His story is fascinating. He appears to us to be an artist and naturalist of uncompromising dedication, commitment and eccentricity that matched his artistic genius. There are a number of articles that provide excellent insight into Anderson’s life—links to a few that we found interesting: The Many Voyages of Walter Anderson: https://bittersoutherner.com/the-many-voyages-of-walter-anderson-horn-island-mississippi and Realisations: https://walterandersonart.com/pages/about-walter-anderson

Horn Island at Sunset 1960 Oil on board

Last night there was a beautiful sunset. One felt that it had been arranged with taste. So many sunsets seem to be simply wild explosions of color in order to stun people into a state of mute wonder. But this one had variety, vermilion red and purple together, and lilac and gold together against a heavenly clear green turquoise sky. You felt that there would never be bad weather again.” —- Walter Inglis Anderson

Allison Sleeping c. 1935 Oil on board
Shrimp Boat c. 1955 Oil on board

“I wonder how long it will be before nature and man accept each other again. —- Walter Inglis Anderson

Lady in Red c. 1930 Oil on canvas

The identity of the sitter in the painting above is unknown. She sits slightly askew in her chair with her hands folded delicately in her lap. She gazes off to her right – not making eye contact with the viewer. By positioning his subject in such a way, we first notice the shape that the figure makes, almost reducing her form into a series of S curves against a dark background.

WPA Mural Sketch c. 1934 Oil on board

This mural sketch was created for the WPA. This particular scene is a cartoon (or preparatory work) of The Hunt. The closely depicted forms of the hunters, deer, and yellow dog are reminiscent of the cave painting compositions that Anderson saw in France in the 1920s.

“Nature does not like to be anticipated it too often means death, I suppose but loves to surprise; in fact, seems to justify itself to man in that way, restoring his youth to him each time.” —- Walter Inglis Anderson

Fairy tales


Walter Anderson loved fairy tales and even described them as being “explosive”- having the ability to inspire life and creativity. Anderson drew, painted, and carved classical images of fairy tales and myths throughout his life. Walter Anderson saw the world as a magical place full of wonder and possibility. Classic tales of mythology populated his daily life on the Gulf Coast. Around his home at Shearwater, Anderson would often carve dead trees into the shapes of nymphs and giants. He read stories to his children and illustrated their lives with fairies and mythic creatures.

Most notably, he created approximately 30 block prints featuring scenes from familiar tales to sell inexpensively to the public. Many of these block prints of myths and fairy tales are displayed here, demonstrating the timeless attraction that these tales have for all.

Bright eyed brew company

Be bright

Bright Eyed Brew Company was a massive bonus – the frosting on our Walter Anderson Museum cake – we did not expect to find a first rate specialty coffee cafe and roaster in Ocean Springs.

Bright Eyed Brew Company is owned and operated by husband and wife Ryan and Kathryn Reaux. They started the business in 2016 as a part time venture making and selling nitro cold brew from a cart at the local farmers market. Today their cold brew is on tap at a number of restaurants and cafes in the Mississippi Gulf area, and they operate the cafe selling espresso drinks, tea, waffles and, of course, nitro cold brew.

The Reaux Family

On our first morning in Ocean Springs we stopped at Bright Eyed as the prelude to our museum visit. From the moment we ordered our drinks and sat down in the cafe, local folks began chatting us up – that is what Fika is all about! Three hours later we finally departed for the museum. https://brighteyedbrewco.com/

Hotel Beatnik

Once we decided to visit the museum, we needed a place to stay and there were no camping options close by. We found Beatnik online and booked a cabin. The property consists of four cabins and a swimming pool. As you can see from the photographs below they are not rustic cabins.

The Beatnik is cool—Scandinavian style decor, a heated plunge pool and a five minute walk to downtown. Everything is online – registration, door lock combinations, housekeeping requests. What else could a traveler want? https://www.thehotelbeatnik.com/

St JOhn’s Episcopal Church

St John’s Episcopal Church

This lovely church is a two minute walk from the Beatnik. As many of you may recall we visit many churches as we tour – in addition to the spiritual aspect, we find the history and architecture of churches fascinating. We were most fortunate to meet Drew, a retired insurance agent from Jackson and a volunteer at the church. Drew graciously provided us with a tour of the church and we reminisced a bit about the problems with the National Flood Insurance Program (once an underwriter always an underwriter).

St. John’s was built in 1892, and the original church is still standing—which is pretty amazing considering it sits 1000 feet from Biloxi Bay and is a wood frame building. Drew did let us know that the building is to be sprinklered in the near future – this former underwiter is fully supportive of that! https://stjohnsoceansprings.dioms.org/

We think Ocean Springs is a cool little town. If you are an admirer of Walter Anderson and his work, excellent coffee, excellent barbecue (Pleasant’s BBQ) and friendly people, make a point of visiting if you are going to be in the Gulf Region of Mississippi.

Be seeing you!

P.S. If you have been following along at all you probably realize that we have not been publishing our posts in strictly chronological order. We are planning to get back in sync in that regard and we are working to publish a post on the first leg of our journey through Mississippi as we followed the Trans America Trail through Northern Mississippi.

Fine Art Tourist: Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Paul Ninas, Louisiana (1903-1964) Avery Island Salt Mines, 1934, Oil on canvas

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (OMSA) is relatively new museum, opening its doors in 1999. Its genesis was the donation of 600 works of art by philanthropist Roger Ogden. Today the museum’s collection has grown to 4000 works and is housed in two buildings – the first built in 1989 and the second in 2003. The museum is located in the warehouse district directly across the street from the impressive National World War 2 Museum.

As the name implies, the museum is focused on art representing the South and -through the art – the history and culture of the South. All of the art in the museum is the work of artists from the 14 southern states and Washington D.C.

We toured the permanent collections featuring Southern Landscapes and Southern Regionalism (culture and values). We also viewed the paintings of Benny Williams – a remarkable story (see biography below) of an artist committed to the civil rights movement.

Southern Landscapes

Florence McClung, Louisiana (1894-1992) Cypress Swamp, Caddo Lake, 1940, Oil on masonite
Luis Graner, Louisiana (1867-1929), Misty Marsh Along Lake Pontchartain, c.1920, Oil on canvas

Southern regionalism

Edmund Daniel Kinzinger, Texas (1888-1963), Taxco Woman in Red and Gray, 1937, Oil on board
Crawford Gillis, Louisiana (1914-2000), Women Praying, Holiness Church, 1940, Oil on canvas
John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Alabama (1888-1953), Mules to Market, 1937, Oil on canvas
George Rodrigue, Louisiana (1944-2013), Aioli Dinner, 1971, Oil on canvas

The Aioli Dinner was Rodrigue’s first major painting with people as subjects. He designed the painting using combinations of photographs taken of the Aioli Gourmet Dinner Club, a group that met once a month on the lawn of a different plantation home in and around New Iberia, Louisiana. Traditionally, only men sat at the table, each with their own bottle of wine. The women seen standing in the back row cooked the food, and the young men around the table served dinner. One of the older men made the aioli, a garlic-mayonnaise sauce. Rodrigue’s grandfather, Jean Courrege, sits on the left near the head of the table, and his uncle Emile is the third boy standing from the left, peeking his head in between the others. All of the figures are portraits of people who lived in and around New Iberia. Rodrigue chose the historic Darby House Plantation as the setting for his painting.*

Bo Bartlett, Georgia (1955) Young Life, 1994, Oil on linen with deer hair

Bo Bartlett is an American realist painter born 1955 In Columbus, Georgia. At 19, he travelled to Florence, Italy to study painting under Ben Long. He went on to apprentice under Nelson Shanks and to study in several American schools, including Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and University of the Arts, PA. A Certificate in Filmmaking from New York University in 1986 led him to work with Betty Wyeth on a documentary film, titled Snow Hill, about her husband, Andrew Wyeth, who became both mentor and friend to Bartlett. An interesting detall of this masterwork is the Inclusion of a deer tail ln the frame, and deer hair in the paint. Writlng about Young Life in February of 1994, Bartlett says: “I saw my sister’s son In this shirt and cap. I asked him to pose with his girlfriend in front of my father’s truck. As I took the photo, my youngest son Eliot ran into the picture.*

Benny andrews

Benny Andrews, Georgia (1930-2006) The Poverty of it All, 1965, Oil on canvas

One of ten children, Benny Andrews was born on November 13, 1930, in Plainview, Georgia, a light skinned, blue-eyed, blond haired baby. James Orr (“Mr. Jim”), his paternal grandfather, was the son of a prominent white plantation owner. His paternal grandmother, who was the midwife at his birth, was Jessie Rose Lee Wildcat Tennessee. And, like her, his maternal grandparents, John and Allison Perryman, were mixed race, with black and Native American blood. Hts father, George Andrews, was a self-taught artist, the “Dot Man,” who never lived more than ten miles from Plainview and never left Georgia. In contrast, his mother, Viola Perryman Andrews, loved travel and was an advocate for education who encouraged her children to write and to draw daily. After becoming the first member of his family to graduate from high school, he attended Fort Valley State College supported by a scholarship. He was not allowed to attend the University of Georgia, in nearby Athens, nor enroll in Lamar Dodd’s well-known art classes there, due to the color of his skin. In 1954, after serving as a military policeman in the Korean War, he used the GI Bill to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, studying under Kathleen Blackshear. No longer constrained by the racial laws of the South, he entered an art museum and saw original masterworks for the first time in 1954, an experience that brought tears to his eyes. After graduating in 1958, he moved to New York, where he maintained a studio for the rest of his life. Despite limited connections to the city’s art world, by 1962 he began to exhibit regularly at Bella Fishko’s Forum Gallery. By the late-1960s, influenced by the Civil Rights Movement, and troubled by the social, racial and gender inequities he discovered in the art world, he entered a period of social and cultural activism which was reflected in his art. After he co-founded the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition in 1969, and participated in marches outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, demonstrating against the exclusion of women and artists of color from those institutions, he was often classified as a “protest artist.” From 1970 through 1976, he executed the “Bicentennial Series,” a project devoted to depicting the complex history of African-Americans for the American Bicentennial. After exhibiting that project, he returned to the studio and to his position as a member of the Queens College art faculty. Beginning in 1982, he served as Director of the Visual Arts Program for the National Endowment for the Arts, a position which brought him increased national stature. He resigned in 1984, feeling he had accomplished what he could and anxious to return to his studio. In 1984, he built a studio outside of Athens, Georgia, where Benny was able to work more closely with his Georgia family. He encouraged his father, “The Dot Man,” to expand his art production to include painted canvases. From 1984 until 1996, when George Andrews died, he worked to advance the recognition of his father’s art. In 2001, after living and working in Manhattan for more than forty years, Benny Andrews and Nene Humphrey renovated and moved to a new studio and residential structure in Brooklyn. The primary focus in the studio during his last years was the “Migrant Series,” inspired by his reading of writers such as Flannery O’Connor and Langston Hughes as well as his rediscovery of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Each of the three major components of this project was planned to reflect one aspect of his own mixed heritage-he was of African-American, Scotch-Irish and Cherokee descent – and was to be related to a major migration in American history, beginning with the Dust Bowl migration to California, continuing with the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” migration, and concluding with the Great Migration of African-Americans to the North. In 2006, after repeated visits to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, he decided to add a concluding chapter to his American “Migrants” series, devoted to the mass migration that emerged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The evolution of the project was suspended when he was diagnosed with the cancer which led to his death, on November 10, 2006.*

Benny Andrews, Georgia (1930-2006) Grandmother’s Dinner, 1992, Oil and collage
Peter Dean (1934-1993) Portrait of Benny Andrews, c. 1972-1974, Oil on canvas

We liked the Ogden very much – really interesting art along with some insight into the South through the stories and moments captured in the paintings of these Southern artists. We recommend visiting the museum when you visit the Big Easy.

Be seeing you!

*Adapted from museum curator notes.

Street Art Tourist: OTR 8.0: Part Two: Clarksdale Music and Art

Muddy Waters, Clarksdale, MS (1913-1983) Midnight at the Crossroads by Devin Gerard Liston @devin.liston

Clarksdale, Mississippi, undoubtedly the epicenter of the Mississippi Delta Blues, is also a treasure trove of Street Art reflecting the musical heritage of the Delta. While we were visiting primarily to hear live blues music and experience the local juke joints, we could not pass up the opportunity to photograph the many portrait murals of blues legends.

The musicians that were born in this area are among the greatest blues practioners and pioneers of all time. Many of them emigrated north to Detroit and Chicago for factory work but ultimately found fame there and were able to turn their passion for music into their full time pursuit.

Just a few examples of the musicians who were born in this area or contributed to the development of the Blues here include: Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, Robert Johnson, Kingfish Ingram and Sarah Moore. Click on the link to see a roster (and biographies) of the many famous blues musicians that were so much a part of the blues scene here. https://www.cityofclarksdale.org/music-culture-history/

John Lee Hooker, Tutwiler, MS (1917-2001)
Leo “Bud” Welch, Sabougla, MS (1932-2017) by El Care Barbie @elcarebarbie
Sam Cooke, Clarksdale, MS (1931-1964)
Delta Roots by Hayden G. Hall @haydenghallart
Portrait of Dr. Vera Mae Pigee by Charles Coleman @ccolem20
Clint Eastwood as the Outlaw Josey Wales by Christopher Keywood
Plow Mule Blues by Church Goin Mule Marshall Blevins @churchgoinmule
Don’t Stop Me From Flying by Likmi Soberana @lik_mi
Rebeka Skela @sanguineskills
Woman of Rock by @erre.erre
Homage to Howlin’ Wolf Wilson by Gerson Fonseca @monstrucion.3
Midnight at the Crossroads by Devin Gerard Liston @devin.liston

We hope you enjoyed these photographs of street murals from Clarksdale. We could have spent another day photographing more murals, but the road was calling and we always heed the call of the road.

Be seeing you!

Street Art Tourist: OTR 8.0: Part One

Hello everyone. This is our first post of OTR 8.0. Our plan for this trip is to travel throughout the Southeast. We spent several several days in Knoxville and Chattanooga during our first two weeks of the journey; neither of us had visited either city previously.

Both cities have a strong commitment to street art and we are excited to share our favorite murals from our tours.

Whenever we have been able to identify the muralist(s), we have included their information in the caption.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Many of the murals from Knox featured in this post are located in Strong Alley, downtown. The alley is known locally as graffitti alley.

Fawne DeRosia @fawne
Curtis Glover @curtisglovercreative
Megan Lingerfelt @meganlingerfelt Colton Valentine @coltonvalentine
Tina Brunetti @art_bytinabrunetti
Chance Losher @professor.rainbow
Cody Swaggerty @cswaggerty
Lacey Sutton @suttonceramics

Chattanooga, Tennessee

We only spent a couple of days in Chattanooga but we were able to capture a number of murals that, fortunately for us, are clustered in the Southside neighborhood and on Mccallie Street as part of the Mccallie Walls Mural Project.

Ali Kay @ali_kay_studio
Anna Carll @annacarllart
Kevin Bate @goodwithfaces
Nyx, Goddess of Night — Miki Boni
The Four Horsewomen (above and below) —- Kevin Bate, Hollie Berry, Miki Boni, Anna Carll and Ali Kay

We plan on publishing another edition of Street Art from the Road later in the trip. We hope you enjoyed the photographs of the murals. You can see additional murals @ctsprinterlife.

Be seeing you!

fine art tourist: oklahoma city —- national cowboy & western heritage museum (ncwhm)

CAUGHT IN THE CIRCLE, 1903 —- Charles Marion Russell

The NCWHM was founded in 1955 as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum with a focus on honoring the cowboy. Today the museum is a smorgasbord of history, culture and fine art. The museum has over 200,000 square feet of display space with twelve galleries including a replica of a western frontier town and a significant collection of firearms in addition to cowboy and Native American art and artifacts. https://nationalcowboymuseum.org/all-galleries/

This post will focus on three painters whose works are in the museum collection, and are well known for their depiction of western life and Native Americans.

Federic Sackrider Remington (1861 – 1909) is undoubtedly one of the most widely recognized artists of the Old American West. As with many of his compatriots, Remington was an Easterner sent to the West to create illustrations for books and magazines which were focused on the romantized West of cowboys and indians.

PONIES PAWING IN THE SNOW, 1888 — Frederic Sackrider Remington

Unlike many of his fellow artists, he lived in the West for a period of time, owning a ranch and a saloon at different times (neither of which was successful). Remington’s start as a professional artist was actually the bartering of drawings to pay some of his debtors during the period of time he owned the saloon.

RAY’S TROOP, c. 1903 — Frederic Sackrider Remington

While he had very little formal art training, Remington became highly proficient at drawing cowboys, indians and cavalry officers (who paid him handsomely for portraits in uniform). He was quoted as saying “Cowboys are cash with me”.

The
THE HUNTERS’ SUPPER, 1909 — Frederic Sackrider Remington

Remington became quite successful financially, moving back East and taking up residence in a large mansion he had built for his family. Unfortunately for him, he adopted an oppulent life style and essentially ate and drank his way to an early death due to complications from his immense size.

THE CHARGE ON THE SUN- POLE, c. 1890 — Frederic Sackrider Remington
IN FROM THE NIGHT HERD, 1907 — Frederic Sackrider Remington

Charles Marion Russell (1864 – 1926was born in Saint Louis, but from an early age was enamored of the West; by the age of 16 had left home to work as a ranch hand in Montana. He made Montana his home for the rest of his life, marrying Nancy Cooper and building a home in Great Falls.

WHEN TRAILS WERE DIM, 1919 — Charles Marion Russsell

Russell had no formal art training. He drew scenes from his life on the ranch as a way to record his experiences. “Between the pen and the brush there is little difference but I believe the man that makes word pictures is the greater.” —- Charles Marion Russell

WHEN MULES WEAR DIAMONDS, 1921 — Charles Marion Russell

Russell’s wife was influential in marketing his sketches, painting and drawings – as his work became popular he devoted himself full time to his artistic endeavors. By that time, he had spent eleven years ranching and had even lived for a time with a Native American tribe. His first hand knowledge of the West provided him with the ability to portray the West in a manner that other artists could not achieve. It is no wonder that Charlie (as he was known by his friends) is considered America’s true Cowboy Artist.

THE CALL OF THE LAW, 1911 — Charles Marion Russell

Russell is considered by many to be an early conservationist. ”A pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress.” —- Charles Marion Russell

As an acknowledgement of his recognition of the need to preserve the environment, a 1.1 million acre national wildlife refuge stretching along a remote portion of the Missouri River in Montana bears his name. We visited the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge during the summmer of 2021 as part of OTR 6.0 ( see post – Montana Prairie…Sun, Heat, Wind and Beauty). The land within the refuge is much the same as it was during Russell’s lifetime. See photographs below. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Charles_M_Russell/about.html

Russell had great respect and admiration for the Native Americans of the Plains and their way of life. Of the 4000 works that he completed during his career, 1700 featured Native Americans as the subject of the work.

THE SIGNAL GLASS, 1916Charles Marion Russell

“The Red man was the true American. They have almost all gone, but will never be forgotten. The history of how they fought for their country is written in blood, a stain that time cannot grind out. Their God was the Sun, their church all out doors. Their only book was nature and they knew all the pages.” —- Charles M.Russell

BEFORE THE WHITE MAN CAME, 1897 — Charles Marion Russell

Walter Ufer (1876-1936) was born in Germany in 1876, although he spent most of his youth in Louisville, Kentucky where there was a sizable German immigrant population. Unlike Remington and Russell, Ufer was a trained painter, having returned to Germany to study at the Royal Academy in Dresden. He returned to the United States and began work as a Commercial Artist before returning again to Germany to study in Munich.

In 1914, the mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison and his business partner, Oscar Meyer (yes, that Oscar Meyer), both admirers of Ufer’s work, helped finance a visit to Taos to provide Ufer with new environment to continue his development as an artist (and, of course, sell his paintings back in chicago).

JIM AND HIS DAUGHTER, c. 1925Walter Ufer

The brilliant light, landscapes and Native American culture of New Mexico captivated Ufer. Ufer very quickly abandoned working in the studio and began working outdoors in order to capture the brilliant light of the southwest and the daily activites of Native Americans and Hispanos.

AT REST, 1926 — Walter Ufer

Ufer’s depictions of the Taos Pueblo Indians were rarely romanticized. He was a committed socialist and soon came to believe that the Euro-American settlers were largely responsible for the destruction of Native American culture and identity that had occurred in America.

“The Indian has lost his race pride, he wants only to be an American. Our civilization has terrific power. We don’t feel it, but that man out there in the mountains feels it, and he cannot cope with such pressure.” —- Walter Ufer

SLEEP, 1923 — Walter Ufer

Ufer realized both critical and commercial success from his depictions of Native Americans and the southwestern landscape. The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression were diasterous for Ufer. The public fascination with art depicting Indians and the West diminished significantly as the financial crisis deepened and endured.

Sadly, as the sale of his work evaporated and his financial burdens mounted he turned to alcohol. He died in 1936 at the age of 60 as the result of a ruptured appendix.

At one time, the images of the West that were shared via the work of these three artists and others were viewed as illustrative of how the white man won the West and conquered the savage tribes of Indians. The winning of the West was considered a noble and necessary precursor to American greatness – our Manifest Destiny.

None other than Theodore Roosevelt said it is  “our manifest destiny to swallow up the land of all adjoining nations who were too weak to withstand us.” Many of the Western artists were, as such, unwitting propagandists for the conquering of the West through their depiction of Native Americans as savages who murdered innocent white settlers. Today it is commonly acknowledged that Native Americans were in fact fighting to remain on their sacred lands and maintain their way of life.

This post is not about villifying the featured artists – they painted the West as they saw and experienced it. Both Russell and Ufer were sympathetic to the plight of the Native American and Hispano peoples. Neither is the post meant to be critical of the museum – the NCWHM is a wonderful museum and we highly recommend a visit when your travels take you to Oklahoma City.

This is the final post from OTR 7.0. We will back on the road in early March. Be seeing you!

Fine art tourist: Emil bisttram at panhandle-plains museum (PPHM)

h. d. bugbee, mountain men, (old bill williams and jim bridger), oil on canvasboard

A brief history of the PPHM

PPHM is located in Canyon, Texas, approximately 20 miles south of Amarillo. The museum opened to the public in 1933. It was the brainchild of Hattie Anderson, an educator who had moved to Canyon to teach history at the West Texas Normal School (now West Texas A&M University).

Hattie was fascinated by the history of the area and began to enlist the aid of individuals  in the area to form a historical society to preserve the history and culture of the Panhandle-Plains.  The historical society flourished for thirteen years; the growing collection of artifacts that created the need for more space. The historical society then funded the creation and operation of the museum.

Today the museum continues to prosper and is home to over three million artifacts within the 285,000 square foot complex. The museum provides insight into the past and the present of many facets of the people,culture, history and industry of the Panhandle-Plains. The collection includes galleries devoted to paleontology, archeology, geology, Native American culture, textiles, petroleum extraction and western art. we

We enjoyed the PPHM immensely and strongly recommend devoting at least a half day visit when you visit the Amarillo – Lubbock area of the Panhandle. In addition to the museum this area offers ample outdoor recreational opportunities (Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon – see post: CTSPRINTERLIFE: TOURING THE PANHANDLE). https://wordpress.com/post/ontheroadwithmariastephen.net/6946

EmIL Bisttram

OTR had the great fortune to meet Deanna Lowe Craighead, Curator of Art at the PPHM, while visiting another museum in the panhandle. In addition to dialing us in about the Bisttram exhibition, Deanna also provided us with the recommendation to visit the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa ( see post FINE ART TOURIST PHILBROOK MUSEUM OF ART). https://wordpress.com/post/ontheroadwithmariastephen.net/7362 The balance of this post is dedicated to the Bisttram exhibit and a bit of his biography.

Emil Bisttram was born in Nagylak, Hungary (now Nadlac, Romania) in 1895. His family emigrated to New York City in 1906. Bisttram studied art at National Academy of Design, Cooper Union, the Art Students League, and the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. He also taught art while studying and was known through out his career as an excellent and sought after teacher.

emil bisttram, storm over taos, c. 1931, oil on canvas

Bisttram visited Taos, New Mexico in 1930. Initially he was overwhelmed by the size and scale of the New Mexico landscape and he struggled to capture the majesty of the environment. Despite that he returned to Taos in 1932 and it remained his home until his death in 1976.

Bisttram evolved from painting New Mexico landscapes and native culture to a decidely abstractionist style. The painting above (Storm Over Taos, 1931) is representative of his early work in New Mexico. The photographs of his paintings below are from the PPHM exhibit (private collection on loan – Ladd Family) and show his progression into abstraction.

emil bisttram, waterfall, 1959, acrylic on canvas
emil bisttram, winter, 1959, enamel on masonite
emil bisttram, celestial structures, 1959, enamel on masonite
emil bisttram, ascension no. 2, 1959, enamel on masonite
emil bisttram, midsummer night’s dream, 1960, enamel on masonite
festivity, 1960, enamel on masonite

Transcendental painting group (TPG)

Bisttram, along with Raymond Jonson, formed the TPG. The TPG was part of the Non-Objective Abstractionist wave of Modernism – which in part emanated from the influx of artists fleeing the increased political disruption ocurring during the 1930s in Europe.

emil bisttram, symphony in blue, 1963, oil on masonite

“The Transcendental Painting Group is composed of artists who are concerned with the development and presentation of various types of non-representational painting; painting that finds its source in the creative imagination and does not depend upon the objective approach.” —- TPG Manifesto

emil bisttram, windsong, 1964, oil on masonite

While we do not enjoy the work of some popular avant garde abstract artists, in our very humble opinion we think the paintings of the TPG artists and in particular Bisttram are in a different category. The work is clearly non-objective in may regards but relatable and created with a clear design in mind. We would love to know what you think.

Be seeing you!

P.S. Added bonus of visiting the PPHM – the excellent Palace Coffee is a five minute walk from the museum.