I am a sucker for starving artists, even those whose art is of a quality that can help explain their starvation. I feel for those artists who, quite obviously, have never received any training yet still try. Their muddled attempts at creativity tell me there’s something inside them that warrants praise and appreciation, so I give it to them, trying not to go overboard with misleading praise.
Yesterday, we did an art tour in Clark County (around Arkadelphia), stopping at several studios to see paintings, sculpture, woodwork, glass work, felt painting (which I’d never heard of but found intriguing), photography, and the like.
The first place we stopped was one of those that pained me to see; the guy (Michael Uhl) obviously had not had a lot of traffic, nor had he had many buyers. We bought one small piece and he threw in another one. They were the two pieces I found interesting, except for some masks he wanted to sell, masks he had purchased during his travels in other countries; but he wanted more than I wanted to pay, and they were not his own art. The point of the art to see the work of local artists.
The second place, just up the road from the first, was an absolutely beautiful setting; the artist’s studio overlooked a small lake and a fenced-in arena. Her paintings were on display, as well as some metal and porcelein jewelry by E.T. Ludwig, who said she learned her craft in her native Germany. All of it was exceptional; all of it was priced out of my league. A painting the studio owner was working on…of the view outside her window…was remarkable; if I had the money, I would have bought it, contingent on its completion. Alas, it was not for sale; it was to be a gift to her daughter to hang in her daughter’s new house. This lady, Rita Earles, was not a starving artist.
Afterward, we went into Arkadelphia, where we stopped by the studio of the woman who organized the event, Farrell Ford. She is a leader in the Caddo River Art Guild and the Arkadelphia Arts and Humanities Council and obviously is consumed with supporting the local arts’ community. We enjoyed talking to her, seeing her fiber arts, and hearing her speak with devotion about the local arts community; the community is lucky to have someone like her as its advocate.
Then, after lunch as an odd little place in Arkadelphia (a surf-themed restaurant…in Arkansas), we saw the work of a number of other artists inside the Arkadelphia Arts Center. George Baker was displaying his “intentionally primitive” carved kitchen utensils, made of naturally-felled wood like osage orange and hickory. Evelyn Good, a very good-natured woman with a ready smile, was showing her art. James Langley and his mother (I assume) and wife (I assume) was showing some very nice pieces of work, including images of elephants and African scenes.
Next up, we stopped at the home studio of T.O. Duncan, a painter and photographer and wood carver. We bought a very small piece there, too, a very attractive little image of a tree that will go well someplace in our house, with its limited wallspace for art. Finally, we stopped at the home and studio of Samuel Blackmon, who is a painter and woodcarver. Another car stopped just in front of us as we arrived; he told us we were the only visitors on Saturday so far (we were there after lunch). I wondered whether the lack of a sign in front of his house was the reason; while the brochure gave directions (2nd house after the turn), somee folks might not have stopped and gone in. He told us the story of having had polio as a child; he walks with metal crutches that fit around his lower arms. His work had strong ties to his black community; the images seemed to be of people he knows, people with whom he interacts in his daily life. Very nice guy who has overcome challenges to create his own art.
This weekend’s event was billed as the Eighth Annual Round About Artists Studio Tours, so there must be a thriving, or a hopeful, arts community in and around Arkadelphia. I hope they got enough attention and traffic to warrant having a ninth next year.