Happy Labor Day Weekend, Friends!
It is a stunningly gorgeous morning here in Panama City Beach. An "arm" of Hurricane Hermine hit us yesterday afternoon, but really it was only enough for a good rain and lots of fabulous photos of the waves and clouds. As I referenced on Instagram, we got the fun part. I haven't checked the news yet this morning, but I suspect that there are towns in Florida that need a lot of prayers and love this morning as they figure out what to do with all the water and wind that came through or is coming through. I'm thankful we have a beautiful day ahead of us, and that I can bring you a little adventure story this morning.
To make the 6 hour drive to PCB with two babies in the car, we decided that creativity was the best option. We left just after 5am and drove several hours while the boys were too busy sleeping and feeling groggy to make much complaint. Around 8, we stopped in Columbus for second breakfast at Chick-fil-A, and I started googling ideas for at least one more long stop to break up the rest of the drive. We were passing directly thru Dothan, so I thought we'd see what this little city had to offer.
Dothan, Alabama is probably best known as the Peanut Capital of the World. I am also convinced that I've read a novel that is set in Dothan, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it is, and Google didn't help (If you know-- PLEASE leave a comment and ease my memory related angst! ha!). What I was surprised and delighted to discover, though, is that Dothan takes its arts culture quite seriously.
I found on Google that Dothan had a free art museum called the Wiregrass Museum of Art. We needed an excuse to get the boys out of the carseats and stretch our legs, and this seemed perfect. "Who knows," I thought to myself, "Maybe they'll have a quilt." We were greeted first by gorgeous cathedral window doors (picture below center), and then by a lovely woman (docent, director? I'm not actually sure what her title was) who told us about the permanent collections and the current show, B16: Wiregrass Biennial, which features a collection of Southeastern artists.
My two favorite pieces in the B16 show were Ellen Soffer's Shimmer 42 (above left) and Shimmer 54 (above right). They literally took my breath away as I stood before them, transfixed. The paint is not metallic (at least not that I saw), yet they absolutely shimmer. It's the kind of painting that speaks something different every time you look at it. They were almost like mirrors-- a surface upon which the viewer can project his or her thoughts and feelings and follow the movement of the strokes until he or she finds either peace or more burning questions.
Downstairs were two more installments. The first made me exclaim, "Oh John, I've found my people!" This letterpress print collection is Southern As by Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. I think my personal favorites are, "I'm as Southern as A Strip Quilt" and "Sewing Mends the Soul." I relate to both! Then, if that wasn't enough of a treat, the next gallery featured Assimilation: From Clay to Cotton by Guadalupe Lanning Robinson. The final piece was "3 D," an amazing modern quilt that made me smile and dance and clap with joy-- they DID have a quilt! It also confirmed to me that I want to apply to the next Wiregrass Biennial show with a quilt or two!
After our lovely museum experience, we decided to walk around Dothan for a bit. I had seen some murals on the way in and wanted to hunt them down for better viewing and photos. Was I in for a treat or what! It seemed like there was a mural on every block! We saw murals of local faces, Country Music legends, the industrial history of Dothan, wildlife, Black History, and more. It was thrilling!
Dothan's newest mural-in-progress features a variety of wildlife and is being painted by renowned wildlife artist, Eddie Leroy (His new website is still in progress, but you can see an interview with him HERE). Leroy is best known for his photographically detailed paintings and his work for the National Wild Turkey Federation and the National Rifle Association. His work has also been featured on stamps several times.
While I didn't have the guts or organization to ask for a formal interview, I was pleased to have the courage to strike up a casual conversation with Mr. Leroy. He was laid-back and easy to talk to. He shared how the children in the mural are his own, now grown, and that he attended the Art Institute of Atlanta in the 80s. I commented on the heat, and he just chuckled, assuring me that this week's weather has been much cooler than the long weeks of July. I loved having the opportunity to meet him, get a glimpse of his process, and admire his work.
Thank you for a lovely visit, Dothan! I hope to be back someday, and I highly recommend stopping in next time you're headed to the Florida Panhandle!
I'm off to nurse baby Ian, then head to the beach. Have a wonderful weekend, y'all, and don't forget to leave comments here and also connect with me on Instagram, @stringandstory!