Joe Minter and his ‘African Village in America’ Art Environment

Joe Minter's African Village in America Art Environment, Birmingham AL

Av and I visited Joe Minter, Sr. a couple of weeks ago….I would have posted this sooner, but I wanted to finish his book, ‘To You Through Me: The Beginning of a Link of a Journey of 400 Years’ first.

We spent a little over an hour in Joe’s yard, and about an hour more talking with him and getting a tour of other pieces he is working on currently.

Okay. Joe is a straight-up genius visionary artist.

Joe Minter is a very different, very motivated person. His message isn’t 100% about “salvation” like so many other visionary artists, but rather it’s more about the American experience of Africans who came to this country. This is part of how he explains his art’s mission in his book:

G-d gave me the vision of art, to link that 400-year-journey to the Africans in America, link that truth to the children who are turning away from us, and I decided to name what I create ‘The African Village in America.’

A few years ago, Av and I met Lonnie Holley and bought one of his pieces of art. I don’t remember if Av asked him what it was all about or if Lonnie offered, but he turned the piece around in his hands and explained what every single thing represented. Each angle was different, and it showed a different aspect of the story he was telling.

Joe is this same way. It’s very sincere, and it’s very understandable, and it’s many-layered. Sometimes it’s very obvious and sometimes not so much. Either way, what Joe does is pure genius.

I’ve got a few pics of his yard/art environment here and over a hundred more pics at my Flickr set here. He and his wife invited us to come back whenever, especially when the plants start blooming, to see everything again. We will.

Days of Putt-Putt

While we were in East Lake last week, we saw the remnants of an old mini-golf place, right in the ‘front yard’ of the Elk’s Lodge there. It is ‘Arnold Palmer Putting Courses’ and is in a serious state of disrepair – but you can just tell that it must have really been quite nice, as far as mini-golf goes, in its day.

Av and I both **love** mini-golf! Nanny used to take me and one of my friends to the Putt-Putt in Gadsden (Rainbow City) all the time – in fact, we were in a ‘weather pic’ on the front page of the Gadsden Times one day putt-putting!

Av used to go play mini-golf a lot growing up too, and he even had one of his birthday parties at a Putt-Putt! Okay, back in the late ’70s….that was cool.

I am even a little jealous. 🙂

The Putt-Putt website lists only two of their courses in Alabama – the one in Rainbow City that I always went to, and another in Anniston on McClellan Blvd. There aren’t any in Mississippi, there are three in Georgia, two in Florida, six in Tennessee, and one each in Louisiana and Arkansas! There used to be tons more than that.

In Cullman, I would sometimes go with friends to the one at Sportsman’s Lake (I think that is officially Sportsman Lake) and every now and then the one at Smith Lake. Of course, along the coast, there are a bunch of non-branded mini-golf places that are really fun too – they usually include some sort of waterfall and at least one dinosaur. It’s best to go late at night when it’s too late for little kids and is a little cooler out in the Summer….

Av is much better than I am, but it’s still a lot of fun. Here are pics from the ‘Arnold Palmer Putting Courses’:

Sign, Arnold Palmer Putting Courses in East Lake (Birmingham-area)

Arnold Palmer Putting Course in East Lake

Arnold Palmer Putting Courses in East Lake (Birmingham-area)

Lunch at Miss Myra’s

Not too many people in the world live in a place where they can eat this good.

Miss Myra’s (205.967.6004, 3278 Cahaba Heights Road, B’ham) is a barbecue restaurant that I’ve seen lauded from Chowhound to Dixie Dining. It may very well be the only place in Birmingham right now that you can get white sauce to put on your chicken or bbq.

Av and I went this week – he had the chicken with fries and I had the beef plate with potato salad and deviled eggs. For dessert, I had ‘nana puddin, and Av had the peanut butter pie.

I thought the barbecue was good but not the greatest….I was just sooooo happy to be somewhere that actually had white sauce, which made everything okay. The potato salad was really, really good – as were the desserts…..and… could you not love a place with framed poems about Bear Bryant??

Neon Signs and Downtown Shrines

Fried Green Tomatoes

The best fried green tomatoes in Birmingham are at Andrew’s Bar-B-Q in Woodlawn. Av and I were B’ham this week, and I had wanted to go there for a long time, because I *really* like their neon sign, noting “air conditioning” and the little piggy running. The barbecue is just okay, but the fried green tomatoes are the greatest!

Bait & Tackle Shop in Wetumpka, AL - love the little minnow sign

Last weekend we spent just a little time in Wetumpka, where Av took a picture of this minnow neon sign at a bait shop.

Shrine, Woodlawn, Alabama

Shrine in Woodlawn

When I discovered Flickr, I found that one of the photographers had posted a pic of a Mary shrine in Woodlawn – I found it! It’s right in front of a downtown business that is subdivided into three or four smaller offices/retail shops. This Mary shrine is on the left-hand wall if you’re facing the building….

Shrine, Woodlawn, Alabama

Across from the Mary shrine

…and this shrine is on the right-hand side of the building, if you’re facing it. I haven’t seen these before, built into outside walls of businesses.