Welcome to where I am, where my kitchen's always messy, a pot's (or a poet) always about to boil over, a dog is always begging to be fed. Drafts of poems on the counter. Windows filled with leaves. Wind. Clouds moving over the mountains. If you like poetry, books, and music--especially dog howls when a siren unwinds down the hill-- you'll like it here.


MY NEW AUTHOR'S SITE, KATHRYNSTRIPLINGBYER.COM, THAT I MYSELF SET UP THROUGH WEEBLY.COM, IS NOW UP. I HAD FUN CREATING THIS SITE AND WOULD RECOMMEND WEEBLY.COM TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN SETTING UP A WEBSITE. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT MY NEW SITE TO KEEP UP WITH EVENTS RELATED TO MY NEW BOOK.


MY NC POET LAUREATE BLOG, MY LAUREATE'S LASSO, WILL REMAIN UP AS AN ARCHIVE OF NC POETS, GRADES K-INFINITY! I INVITE YOU TO VISIT WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ SOME GOOD POEMS.

VISIT MY NEW BLOG, MOUNTAIN WOMAN, WHERE YOU WILL FIND UPDATES ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY KITCHEN, IN THE ENVIRONMENT, IN MY IMAGINATION, IN MY GARDEN, AND AMONG MY MOUNTAIN WOMEN FRIENDS.




Thursday, July 10, 2008

Paintings That Burn Through My Eyes


My great-grandmother, Ella Valentine Fry, was a painter. Her large oil paintings hung on the walls of our house while I was growing up in Southwest Georgia, and I often wanted to walk into them, especially the ones with snow-capped mountains, magnificent elk, a moon hovering in the night sky, and, in one, a young American Indian woman guiding her canoe to shore. That was my "Red Wing" painting, the one I still carry in my mind as if it's close enough to touch. I sang "Red Wing" in my private voice lessons: Oh, the moon shines tonight on pretty Red Wing. The young woman pictured on the sheet music looked like the one in the painting. My great-grandmother did many things in her life besides paint; she was a Pentecostalist preacher, one of the first women teachers in the Black Hills, and the mother of several children. She lived her later years in Dahlonega, Georgia, where my grandmother was born.

Right now, as I sit at the computer, I am looking at a painting by another artist whose landscapes widen my eyes with their burning moons, their dark pines rising out of the frame, their mists swirling like wildfire smoke or morning fog twining through a Georgia field. The woman who painted these images is Cindy Davis, whose work I discovered at a large show of SW Georgia artists in my hometown of Camilla two years ago. This painting I am looking at is titled South Georgia Pine. It reminds me of the sunsets I was drawn to so often while growing up, standing by the highway, looking through the pines at the sun swelling as it settled into the earth. Cindy has captured that moment in this painting. Another of her paintings, Dusty Moon, captures the same burning landscape that I remember so well.



The painting that haunts me most of all, however, is one titled Totem Ghost. Here again we see the Georgia woods, dark and light and color tangled up in each other, and down in the corner of the painting, a ghostly figure, perhaps a dream figure. Is it threatening? My first reaction was that it looked like a Ku Klux Klansman, barely visible in the darkness, an image haunting beyond words for anyone who has lived for years in the South. Maybe this figure is really some sort of Rorschach for the viewer. It has scarecrow qualities, doesn't it?

Yet it looks barely real, an apparition rising up from the soil.
Behind it the world seems on fire. The three pine trees
look charred, the moon about to be covered with smoke. I enter this painting again and again,
looking around, letting myself be swept up in its waves of line and color.

I encourage you to visit Cindy's website, http://cindydavisart.com. To see what other SW Georgia artists are creating, go to http://flintrivergallery.blogspot.com/ and flintrivergallery.com. I like to think that my great-grandmother would have been drawn to Cindy's paintings as I am. I also like to think that in some part of our imaginations, some timeless sphere, all three of us are young girls standing in the pine trees watching the sun burning down into the cornfields and later the ripe moon rising over a landscape that forever haunts and inspires us.

7 comments:

Susan M. Bell said...

I checked out Cindy's website. What wonderful work. The colors are magnificent. And I have to say, I think Totem Ghost is my favorite. Very haunting...pardon the pun. :)

Pat in TN said...

I also checked out Cindy's website and I really like her work and the vibrant colors she uses ... Dusty Moon is my favorite.

Tipper said...

Beautiful paintings and beautiful words about your Great Great Grandmother-she sounds like an amazing woman.

Vicki Lane said...

The paintings are lovely but what I really want to know more about is Ella Valentine Fry. Sounds like a novel waiting to be written -- or a series of poems.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

The family has two big garbage can sized tins of her letters. Yes, there's definitely a novel or biography waiting in that material.
I have put her in a few poems. The family came from Stettin, Germany. My great-grandfather from Ireland. They met in S.D. and got married in Spearfish.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Wonderful paintings. Great atmoshpere. Thanks for the link.

cpstripling said...

OK, you can have the Red Wing painting, since I can clearly recall you singing that song (you were pretty good with it, as I recall) I'll take a mountain scene.