I Know Art When I See It

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.

Artistic Childhood

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.


Maxfield Parrish — Dreaming [1927]

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.


Hand-made Estonian platter — about 13 inches in diameter

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]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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14 Responses to I Know Art When I See It

  1. I love art! Peter took me with him to Paris on a business trip and I spent 6 1/2 hours in the Louvre alone! (I could have spent days!) I love to do pencil sketches and I used to work in watercolor, but haven’t for many years- now I paint with words. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      I would love to visit the Louvre, but I’d be one of those old guys on a scooter — can’t stand and walk worth a hoot any more. My mom took my daughter with her to Paris on a tour and they got to make a quick run through the Louvre.


  2. jbrayweber says:

    I can’t get over that your grandmother “dressed” the nude. That is hilarious!
    My mother dabbled in painting when she was a young mother, so we had some lovely paintings hanging on the walls. I may be bias, but I believe she could have been quite amazing and made good money off her work had she ever had the desire to paint beyond a hobby.
    My paternal grandmother was also very creative. She was very much into eggery and ceramics and even had her own business. But one of the more treasured items she made were silk Japanese dolls. The kind that are 2 feet tall or more and should be displayed in cases. They were in various, graceful poses and adorned in beautiful kimonos. Some held fans, warrior masks, koi fish or had interesting jewelry or kasas. I have 3 of these dolls, but sadly, she never really displayed them properly and some of the fabrics faded or have been eaten away by time and bugs. One day, I’d like to have them restored.
    Great post, Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      those dolls sound like treasures. We had an aunt — Luna Salters Benny — who crocheted little outfits for little 7-8 inch dolls. She gave my sister so many, that Mom had a special display case built to hold them. She also made a Mr. & Mrs. Santa doll outfit for me. Don’t know what happened to those two.
      I hope some of your mom’s paintings survive.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This has been an interesting week! I love that there are so many family pieces in all of our homes and pieces that have meaning to all of us.I could not imagine having a decorator put things that have no meaning or connection around me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Patricia Kiyono says:

    You sure have a memory for details. I honestly don’t remember anything about the first house I grew up in. I have no idea if there was any art there. We moved when I was 5, and I remember a few pieces of grandpa’s art there – but many of those were pieces he’d given away, and then the families of those recipients returned them to us. There are a few nudes – but rather than covering them up, those stayed back in the master bedroom where us impressionable kids would see them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      well, frankly, I don’t recall ANY art from age 5… except two pieces. In my kindergarten year, we lived in (what must have been a furnished) parsonage. My dad was assoc. pastor at a Baptist Ch. in Macon Ga. In that parsonage was a large model of a castle… with a working drawbridge. I have to assume it was part of the house’s furnishings, because we certainly did not bring it with us to Louisiana in 1956. [Though I desperately wanted to].
      Another object d’art from that parsonage was the doorstop was the heavy brass nozzle of a fire hose.


  5. Joselyn says:

    I love that your grandmother painted clothes on the woman. That is a great story.

    I recall a few things from my childhood room, mostly posters of teddy bears, but there was also a colored sand/gravel-ish thing of a princess as well as a hook-rug of Raggedy Ann. Both of these had really creepy eyes when the yard light shone through the window.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      My grandmother was in her late 80s when she died in 1976… so she was born in the 1890s (if not earlier). She wouldn’t even tell her true age to the drivers license folks, so we don’t know her age for certain. She drove around town in her 1938 Plymouth and scared the heck out of her passengers (me and my sister) and many of the other drivers on the road. Quite a character.

      Liked by 1 person

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