Thanksgiving Pies

Last year, the number was 42 and this year, it’s 49!

We made pecan, chocolate pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, sweet potato – praline, buttermilk coconut, chess, chocolate meringue (and just one that’s chocolate pecan bourbon that we save for the fam). Av and the boys delivered them to Jimmie Hale Mission, Jessie’s Place, Firehouse Shelter, and Community Kitchens at Grace Episcopal.

Hope you all are having a *wonderful* Thanksgiving! xoxo!

Art of William Edmondson, New Documentary

One of the largest collections of William Edmondson‘s art is at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville, and last month filmmaker Mark Schlicher spoke there about the artist and the fundraising he’s doing to finish his documentary entitled “Chipping Away: The Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson” that he’s devoted work to over five years. (Trailer below)

William was born to Orange and Jane Brown Edmondson sometime in the 1870s — perhaps December 1874 — in Tennessee, and was born and died within a three-mile area. His parents were freed slaves who had been at the Compton Plantation (now Green Hills) in Davidson County, continuing to work there after emancipation as sharecroppers.

William moved into the city of Nashville when he got older, and suffered a leg injury from a railroad job. Unemployed, he started making tombstones for sale using old railroad spikes and hammers to make shapes.

Smithsonian Magazine August 1981 published a quote from him about the inspiration:

‘First He told me to make tombstones; then He told me to cut the figures. I do according to the wisdom of G-d. He gives me the mind and the hand, I suppose, and then I go ahead and carve these things.’ 


In 2011, I visited Mount Ararat cemetery in Nashville, though it’s known that very unfortunately all of Edmondson’s work is no longer extant there. Further, it’s no longer known where in the cemetery he is buried. Nashville dedicated a park in Edmondson’s honor a few years ago and commissioned Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley for sculptures.

In 1935, Sidney Hirsch, an art faculty member at George Peabody College for Teachers found Edmondson’s place and was intrigued, telling his friend Louise Dahl-Wolfe about it. She worked for Harper’s Bazaar and thought it worthy of a feature, but William Randolph Hearst did not want to feature it in the magazine. She showed pictures of the work to Alfred H. Barr Jr., director of MoMA, and William Edmondson became the first African American artist to have a solo show there, in 1937.

Besides angels and animals (one of his lions was sold by Christie’s in January 2017 at $511,500), he began to sculpt famous people like Eleanor Roosevelt. He even sculpted Sidney Hirsch at one point, and that piece is in the collection at Cheekwood. Note: though Cheekwood has many pieces of Edmondson’s art, they don’t keep it on permanent exhibit. Their current exhibit calendar is here.


Above, one of Edmondson’s eagles I photographed in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The last time I visited the Edmondson exhibit at Cheekwood — which was a few years ago — they did not allow photography. 

As an aside, Sidney Hirsch himself was a renaissance man in his own right: he was a  model for Auguste Rodin (!) and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. He served in the Navy. He studied ancient languages. He was a member of Vanderbilt’s Fugitives group of poets and other creatives (Robert Penn Warren was one member), and he was a playwright with varying degrees of success.

Edmondson achieved a certain amount of celebrity after the MoMA show, but had little interest in it, and cared less about the positive or negative criticism of his work. During his lifetime, the art never commanded appropriate market prices.


His ‘Boxer’ c. 1936 set a new world record for his work and for Outsider art when it sold for $785k in 2016 at Christie’s.

“Chipping Away: The Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson” is slated for a Spring 2018 release, fundraising to complete it here:

Rag Bologna and Hoop Cheese

The Jefferson Country Store outside Demopolis, Alabama — Hoop Cheese, Souse, Rag Bologna

Inside, an old store with wooden floors and glass coke bottles, Moon Pies, boiled peanuts, chips (your choice of Golden Flake and Zapp’s), Little Debbies, cans of Manwich and salmon…there’s probably some 10W30 and windshield washing fluid in there somewhere — you name it. And they’ve got this grill area for making hot ham & cheese, fried bologna sandwich or Conecuh sausage dogs…

If you’re there after the grill closes, there’s always rag bologna (called that because of the cloth sleeve) and hoop cheese with the red wax in the fridge


If you pick up a copy of the latest Southbound (it’s published by Atlanta Magazine and comes with their subscriptions), they ran one of my pics of the Simmons-Wright Company country store in Kewanee, Mississippi

but the most interesting part isn’t the outside but the inside

Folk Cemeteries of South Alabama, Some Including Graveshelters

In the Jackson, Alabama area, we found this swept cemetery with a graveshelter at Pleasant Grove Baptist:

Here, curbing with gravel:

Other graves have mounding, and if you look closely, due to rain…

The surface gets these odd little rises where the pebbles/shell bits are:

The graveshelter here is for Pugh Perdue Rotch, who lived from 3/21/1919 to 7/11/1922

Newville, Alabama had this Baptist Church cemetery pretty much in the middle of town, and it was also a swept cemetery (grass is not allowed to grow; the sand is swept to keep anything from growing). The oldest known grave here is from 1891, and a historic marker notes that in 1947, burial spaces were sold for $.25/sqft.

The graveshelter at Ramah Primitive Baptist in Houston County, Alabama is no longer extant, but the cemetery has many folk elements in that many of the family plots have the gravel and curbing:

and these ‘head and shoulders’ wooden markers, 

This is where the graveshelter was at one time. It’s for (can’t quite be certain) Maggie or Margie Whitehead, daughter of JNO. & Nancy Whitehead, born Aug 5, 1889, died Nov 4, 1890 ‘gone but not forgotten’ — and features this line of shells to make a cross:

Mosley Cemetery in Choctaw County, Alabama has this tabernacle just outside the gates:

Inside the cemetery, a graveshelter for Jasper C. Carlisle, who served in the CSA, Company F, 54th Alabama Infantry and lived 3/9/1842 – 8/27/1916

This Year’s (so far) Best Exhibit: Christenberry

Last year was an *amazing* year for exhibits, and my top two were Hunt Slonem Antebellum Pop! at the LSU Museum of Art and Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors at the Frist. This year, I’m thinking the Mobile Museum of Art’s Christenberry: In Alabama might be tops:

The signs, the sculptures, the woodwork, the ephemera, the furniture, the paintings, the photography…just this incredible all-encompassing (or as all-encompassing as one can wish for) look at Christenberry’s world…

“The Palmist Building is in my consciousness, has been most of my life as far as I can remember. It was on the way in the forks of the road, literally between grandparents’ houses — grandparents Smith and Christenberry — so we’d have to pass it. Especially when we lived in Tuscaloosa, we’d make that trek almost, if not every, weekend to visit one or both of these families. It was a general store run by my great-uncle, Sydney Duncan, my father’s mother’s brother — she was a Duncan… Then my next recollection was it becoming the Palmist Building.” — Bill Christenberry, cited in catalogue ‘William Christenberry ART & Family’ at the Ogden, 2000

Tornado Table, 2016

Providence Church, 1976

Southern Tree, November 20, 2004 — German ink on laid paper

Alabama Box, 1980

Entrance to B.F. Perkins’ place near Bankston, Alabama 1988

The Only Sure Thing

If we live a good life, we get to say that we met a certain number of people who were blissfully “one of a kind” — in one day, one day!, sweet Wade Wharton introduced me to his friends Tat Bailey, Bill Wilson, and John Farrer who all fully met that description.

The ridiculous part of this is that each of those men — each a close friend of Wade, was in his own right an incredible artist, and had an unmistakable, strong personality, undeniably a “one of a kind”. John was a sculptor with big public commissions. Bill was a poet, a pique assiette artist. Wade, well, Wade had an art environment and made all kinds of sculptures (when he wasn’t woodworking or making silly things from gourds). And Tat. Where to even start (with the covered bridge he built, his stonework, or what?).

I was thinking of Tat today and found this on Vimeo:

“he got more friends than anybody in this country. And he’s done more to help more people than anybody, any one person or any dozen people that I know of.”

The Only Sure Thing from Western Kentucky Photojournalism on Vimeo.

Here, just three the images I took from some of the visits I made to Tat’s home. What an incredible, incredible human being.