Art In My Home
By Jeff Salter
This week, we’re blogging about art in our homes. There’s no particular time period specified, so I guess we can focus on whichever point (in our lives) that we choose. Therefore, as I often do, I’ll bounce all over the place.
The home I grew up in featured a lot of art. One prominent piece was what I later learned was a Maxfield Parrish print (though, at the time, I didn’t know Parrish from Larrish). This particular one – 1927’s Dreaming – was a nude by a huge tree in the woods… but my grandmother’s Victorian era modesty had compelled her to use crayons to deftly fashion a blue skirt and red blouse for that model. I was a grown man before I realized the anonymous lady was supposed to be nekkid.Another striking piece of art was a colorful wooden platter, gratefully given to my dad by a couple of Estonian Displaced Persons after WW2. Dad had been instrumental in raising the funds to bring them stateside, and thus rescue them from the grim and uncertain future of DP camps in the ravaged nations of Europe after the war.
Another piece was a life-size bust of my father, made by one of the mental patients who attended his services as Protestant Chaplain at Southeast Mental Hospital in Mandeville LA [from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s]. The patient had taken photos – front, back, left and right profile – of my father’s head… and from them composed a remarkably life-like bust. [I think it was cast in plaster.] Later in the life of this bust, however, the chin collided with something and the incident left my dad’s face permanently marred.
Another piece by a different mental patient was a stylized crucifix done on canvas with chalk (as I recall). Of all the images of the crucified Christ that I’ve ever seen, this one stands out as the most graceful and lovely.
Yet another piece was an abstract piece of baked ceramic, mounted to a finished wooden plaque. This was created by my dad’s very talented and generous friend, Miriam Barranger. [When I was approaching my high school graduation, Mrs. Barranger asked my dad what I’d like as a gift from her. So he asked me. When I told him to tell her I’d love one of her pieces of art, she was delighted. Not only did she grant me that wish, but she allowed me to select the one I wanted, from a particular batch in her studio.]
The other art in my own bedroom (in that house where I grew up), included: a framed portrait of JFK and his family (which I’d obtained by writing to the White House shortly after his 1961 inauguration), a framed photo of my hero Will Rogers, and a framed copy of a famous painting of Napoleon on his rearing horse. That’s a pretty eclectic mix, don’t you think?
In my big brother’s bedroom was a large, mounted Kachina Mask, which he’d created in either kindergarten or first grade out of papier-mâché. It was quite impressive… and especially so by someone so young.
Dominant in my little sister’s room – other than literally hundreds of pictures of the Beatles, of course – was a beautiful oil painting of a horse in the moonlight… painted by our first cousin, Deanna Slappey (of Anniston AL).
My own artistic endeavors
Space won’t permit a full discussion of this sub-topic, but you may be wondering whether all this artwork in the house ever rubbed off on me or my own creative expression.
Our house was filled with books and art and classical music (along with the rock-n-roll my brother and I listened to on WTIX). And every creative effort of any of us was heartily encouraged by my parents. Each little insignificant scribble – whether text or art – was praised and saved by my mom. When I was stuck in the hospital for about two weeks during third grade, one of my chief activities was a paint-by-number kit. Remember those?
One year for Christmas my dad acquired a massive block of professional grade modeling clay — the kind you’re supposed to FIRE after you sculpt your whatever. I never had an oven to fire anything in, but I surely did enjoy dabbling with that cool clay.
Still later, I experimented with color and shape in abstract forms (with colored pencils)… followed by a period in which I fancied I could render still life in charcoal. Some of these efforts actually survive, but all are painfully amateurish, of course.
Oh, one brief glimmer of OBJECTIVE praise about my efforts in visual arts. In one or two grades of Covington Elementary School, we had a project in which all the students (presumably in that same grade) gathered in the cafeteria and “drew stuff” while someone played a particular piece of classical music on the phonograph. Of all those drawn, some panel of judges – presumably teachers, for that first round, at least – selected some pieces that appeared to have artistic merit. Mine was one of those. My masterpiece, however, quickly fell out of the further rounds of judging, which was just as well… since whatever music they’d played was not to my liking. LOL
What about YOU? What artwork highlights – or has highlighted – your home?
[JLS # 380]