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Spencer’s Grill, Kirkwood, Missouri–January 17, 2011

January 17, 2011

Spencers Grill, Kirwood, Missouri.

I am pouring my heart into this composition, which overall measures about 19 1/2 by 22″.

Spencer’s Grill was established in 1947, and this sign dates from 1948.  It is located in Kirkwood (St. Louis), Missouri along historic Route 66 (now 223 S. Kirkwood Road).  You can read its background from this website:  http://www.route66university.com/busdir/spencers.php

My reason’s for painting this defy words, but I’ll give it my best effort.  I saw this sign daily on a billboard during my pre-literate days.  I was travelling in the car on old Highway 30 from Fenton to St. Louis.  A billboard advertising this diner was alongside the bridge over the Meramec River.  Though I couldn’t read it, I was taken with its color scheme, and always looked for it on the drive.  During my teenage years, when I learned to drive, I was surprised to see this diner (and its sign!) on Kirkwood Road.  My dad worked at a dealership north of this location, and thus I saw it many more times when I would drive to see Dad at his workplace.  I guess I’m trying to say that there is something “Proustian” about this sign–it takes me back to images and remembrances of my childhood, which are warm and inviting.

I have lived in Texas since 1977, and travel to St. Louis only to visit family.  In the 1990’s, with a 35mm camera, I drove to this location and took a number of photos, then went inside for the first time, to eat.  I couldn’t believe I waited thirty years to enter the establishment (and now have waited over fifty to paint it!).  Once inside, I felt that I had entered Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks. This cafe began just five years after Hopper painted that work.  Sadly I note that these diners are getting harder and harder to find.  I settle for Starbuck’s, but wish for Spencer’s Grill.

I guess as artists, we always call ourselves “visual persons.”  But I cannot stop staring at signs and logos that I saw before I was able to read them, and was captivated by their designs–Chevrolet, Ford, Texaco, Sinclair, Maxwell House, and of course, Spencer’s Grill.  There remain (for me) certain color schemes and selections of fonts that I cannot stop staring at, and probably will continue to do so till the end.

So, to any of you who have warm memories of old-style diners from your “pre-literate” youth, I hope you will enjoy this one.  I’m feeling a great sense of reward and fulfilment as I work on it.

Thanks for reading.  My website is http://recollections54.com