Our Town, U.S.A.

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Palestine Railyards, Chamber of Commerce, Sacred Heart and Redlands Hotel

This is a rare Monday morning, enjoying The Gallery at Redlands and listening to “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” broadcasting just on my right, sharing space in this gallery.

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The Gallery at Redlands, with “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” behind the Screen

I keep my phone muted during broadcasts, and when I saw the screen light up, I stepped out into the streets to return a missed call. The 64-degree overcast morning featured cool breezes, compliments of recent rains. The air smelled fresh, and the sounds of the city enraptured me, particularly the pounding of the behemoth locomotives in the Union Pacific railyards, just two blocks from the gallery.  Feeling my senses enriched, I strolled around two city blocks, talking on the phone, and then just stopped to gaze in all directions. The dark gray morning sky promised rain, and I decided to shoot a panorama of my favorite section of the town: the railyards, the park, the Chamber of Commerce building (which used to be the railroad headquarters), Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and the Redlands Hotel, with the gallery window visible, and just inside, Smooth Rock 93.5, broadcasting live.

This morning, I am reading Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay, “The Storyteller.” This inspired Larry McMurtry’s book of autobiographical essays, titled Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. Having already read the early portions of it before stepping out into the Palestine streets, I gazed up and down the city blocks and thought of main street U.S.A. My mind drifted back to Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesberg, Ohio, Thorton Wilder’s play Our Town and Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days. An old idea returned to me that never came to fruition–in 1999, I had this notion of creating a series of watercolors with accompanying short stories titled “My Town 63050.” I was going to create a fictional town as Keillor did with Lake Wobegon, Wilder with Grover’s Corners and Faulkner with Yoknapatawpha County. The zip code is fake, falling between the two Missouri towns where I carved out my childhood: 63051 in House Springs and 63049 in High Ridge.

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“Turvey’s Corner”, painted in 1999

“Turvey’s Corner” is an enlarged giclee print on canvas of a watercolor I created to launch this series, “My Town 63050.” I created four additional paintings for the series, but never got the short stories written, and within six months, all the original paintings sold, and my idea evaporated. Until now. Perhaps the year 2019 will witness the resuscitation of this series. The morning walk certainly flooded my imagination with possibilities. Palestine is the quintessential railroad town to provide the setting. The 1914 Redlands Hotel could be the soil out of which this seed sprouts. And the addition of Smooth Rock 93.5 brings to mind that wonderful book by Garrison Keillor, WLT: A Radio Romance. The more I write this morning, the more enthused I feel about the possibilities. Let’s see if I can roll this project out of the garage.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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