Artists of Northwest Arkansas

I’ve been down here a couple of days, seeking new talent for one of my corporate clients.  Caught the bloody flu a day before leaving, but the arts must go forward ill or no.  Glad I sucked it down; have met several great painters and sculptors along the way.


Above is an oil by Basil Seymour-Davies.  With a name like that, you’d think he was a Brit.  And he is by half: his mother is Cambodian, his father British.  Either way, he paints on a level of international sophistication.  This piece is more straightforward than it first appears, and certainly one of his less conceptual works.  But among figure painters, he stands out.  A well-kept secret of Fayetteville whose talent should not be a secret any longer.  I aim to help him change that.  


Then there’s Leon Niehues, who creates sculptural basketry unlike any I’ve ever seen.  He’s a middle-aged hippie dude (as I am), living with his charming wife in Huntsville, which is in the hills east of Fayetteville.  Leon is far from unknown, having exhibited for years at the major craft shows in venues like San Francisco, Baltimore and Philly.  He also has a piece in the White House collection.  It just took me awhile to catch up with him, being rather slow in some capacities.

Both of these are stellar artists, as are the other ten I’ve visited.  Now it’s a quiet night in Eureka Springs, and I plan to enjoy it with a dip in a hot tub, a couple of gins, and dinner at Ermillio’s.  Man I do love the arts.

Michael Wickerson Sculpture


Met with Michael Wickerson yesterday to discuss these crazy Cupola pieces he’s casting in iron, in a moderate size now but soon quite large.  Uses scrap iron, melts it down, reconstitutes.  He’s Sculptue Chair at the Kansas City Art Institute, and last summer had a very cool show in Utrecht.  I mean the one in Holland.  Hope to collaborate with him and some of his students on a few projects.  We’ll see what shakes out.

He did the piece above last summer.  The wheels are iron, and show some of the direction the Cupola works go in.

Oak Alley, South Louisiana, and the Mansions that Slavery Built


As we approached New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, going down through the Delta, I took my sons on a visit to Oak Alley.  This is one of those grand plantations west of the city, along the river, built on the backs of the slaves who raised and harvested the sugarcane, the cotton.  I felt the boys should see a place so grand, and tragic.


So we took a tour, dug on the antiquities and views of the live oaks, but when the tourguide referred to a child slave as a “little colored boy,” my sons had had enough.  The oldest turned to me and asked if we could leave.  I urged him to finish the tour, he gritted his teeth and did, noting bitterly that not once did the guide refer to how all that fleeting wealth had been acquired.  I’m glad he noticed.

Later we wandered the grounds, where the punks climbed the trees, snapped pictures, made calls on their cells.  I later explained that the woman’s remark would have offended plenty of white Southerners too, and that it didn’t reflect bigotry so much as a lack of awareness.  I mean throughout the South, for over a decade, I’ve seen Black professors, successful businessmen and women, civic leaders.  The old bigotry is  dying–even if language in certain rural areas hasn’t kept pace.  I also reminded the boys of how our own ancestors once had slaves–on a large farm in Missouri–and that few white Americans were not descended from centuries of bigotry, whether from the North, the South, or Europe.  That I think helped put things in perspective.

Anyway, by that evening everyone was excited, since we knew New Orleans was next–an experience like no other.  We got there the next day, but not before stopping for a cajun meal at some roadside joint in Vacherie–one of our best meals of the trip.  And yeah, Blacks ate in that joint at tables next to Whites–something that would have been unthinkable when I was a kid.  Slowly, this country is making progress.

Kim Casebeer Installation at Mission Farms


Installed this rather large painting–5′ x 3′–recently at the Mills Farm clubhouse.  It’s by Kim.  The developer loves it, the residents love it, but the photo sucks because the blasted art dealer took the shot with his cell, having forgot a proper camera.  Well, I’ll post a better shot some other time.

Obama’s Inauguration: A Day Long, Long Overdue


This article in the Washington Post needs no caption, nor do these photos.  Now, maybe, we can go back to advancing a country that truly represents all its citizens, not just a handful of the privileged and the greedy–who have done damage we’ll spend  generations repairing.  I suspect that Franklin and Adams would be proud–not to mention King.


My only regret?  I didn’t make it to DC.  Well, some other time.

Clarksdale, Mississippi and the Blues Trail

On New Year’s Day my sons, one of their friends, and I traveled down through the Mississippi Delta on our way to New Orleans.  The Delta is easy to bypass, since no interstate traverses it, it’s well off the beaten path, and still struggles with considerable poverty.  One might not consider it a place to explore.  But for the Blues, and the culture that gave birth to the Blues, there is no place like Clarksdale or the Delta.


We were only there one night, and of course went to the Ground Zero Blues Club.  Great music, but man, they don’t believe in that smoking-ban thing.


This is how the joint looks in daylight.  Yeah, it has character.


On the outskirts of town is the Hopson Plantation, which is now a sort of museum, but where the cruel hardships of cotton workers from the past still float through the air.  Note the old workers’ shacks.  I can’t imagine the life they lived, or what is was like picking cotton, by hand, for decades on end.  Bad enough as an underpaid worker, pure hell as a slave.  But cotton harvesting went mechanical in the ’40s, and many of the Blacks fled north to St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit, taking their music with them.  In fact many left from the old Depot in Clarksdale, which is were the Blues Museum now is.


And this is the former hospital, now the Riverside Hotel, where Bessie Smith died after her car wreck in 1937.  It was only the hospital for Blacks in the Delta at that time, then was converted to a hotel in 1944.  Robert Johnson never got to stay here, since he died before the place became a hotel.  But the Crossroads he wrote about aren’t far away.


Then of course in the Delta, just 30 minutes south of Clarksdale, is Money.  This is where the boy Emmett Till was lynched in 1955 for whistling at a white woman.  And that, along with centuries of an injustice so brutal it can’t really be described, is what helped launch the events that followed: Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat, Martin Luther King’s intelligent assault on sheer stupidity, and everything else that led up to the inaugeration next Tuesday.  Maybe the U.S. can now become a real republic, since we can’t be until all our citizens are fairly and equitably represented.

Like all our family trips, the first priority is fun–and lots of it.  But underlying this is the importance of learning: about the history and culture of each region, and the legacy that those things are built on, whether cruel, glorious, inglorious, or bizarre.  In this case, my sons appreciated more in one day about the Civil Rights movement and what inspired it, than all the books they’ve read in school.  Well, that was the point. 

Visiting Hyde Gallery for BKD


Last month I visited the Hyde Gallery in Springfield as part of the art selection process for the new BKD headquarters.  Gallery was founded by Jan Hyde, and is one of the most sophisticated in that region.  Her artists will definitely fill a lot of walls in the building, and the ones selected are all from the Springfield area.  Well, that’s the point. 


Interview on Public Radio

Pierced Sky.JPG

Matt Kirby and I were interviewed this week on KCUR, the local NPR affiliate.  It concerned Pierced Sky, the sculpture in honor of the late Bart Cohen.  Give a Listen, if you like.  They cut the part with me teasing Matt, but the rest was left in.

New Orleans


In New Orleans for a few days.  Drove down with my sons.  Came through the Mississippi Delta and along the Blues Trails: Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Leadbelly, and all that.  Also the town in which Emmett Till was murdered in 1955: Money, MS.  A very good though tragic history lesson for the boys, since this unspeakable, horrendous,  brutal crime helped give real fire to the Civil Rights movement.  And this lynching was only one of thousands.  The big difference here was they did it to a boy, and the national press jumped all over it.  Thankfully that primitive attitude has all but vanished from the South.  A few more generations, and hopefully its destructive legacy will be nullified.  I won’t see that final change, but my sons will.

Now we’re in N.O.  A good place to start a new book?  Sure, why not.  It was for Anderson and Capote.