Monthly Archives: March 2012

Paint by Numbers and Green Goddess Dressing


     Entering  the Lovin’ Spoonful Cafe in Clarksville, TN, I stand speechless (and that doesn’t happen often!). Transported back to my childhood and the smell of oil paint in our New York apartment , I can see my dad carefully  painting by numbers. There’s the old mill, a German Shepherd, and the Asian farmer hanging proudly on the walls and surrounded by hundreds of others.I can’t wait to explore , but given that it’s past lunch time , the tempting aromas lead us to sit at a table presided over by a fifties Blackamoor lamp. Other tables sported fifties and sixties pieces of Tupperware and kitsch.

The menu is an eclectic mix of comfort food and current trends.Green Goddess dressing for my salad and a chicken asparagus casserole make time travel possible. While waiting for the food, I rush to emptying tables to examine and shoot photos of the paintings. My friend and I reminisce over which ones we remember.

The food was wonderful and I was tempted by a dessert that described itself as having a 60’s secret sauce, but I was more curious about the paintings. Having adopted Memphis as home for the past years, I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t an Elvis paint by number displayed . After searching, I eventually found it.

As we left, I realized I knew next to nothing about paint by number paintings and needed to learn more. Dave Robbins is credited with creating Paint by Numbers kits for a toy show in 1951. In an interview with Egg on PBS, Robbins said the idea came from a process used by Leonardo Da Vinci to help his students develop their design skills and to complete large paintings. Robbins never expected the idea to become a cultural icon – so much so,  that in 2001-02, the Smithsonian Museum of American History held an exhibit of paint by number paintings. Dave Robbins also didn’t expect the controversy that arose as to whether the kits were art or craft. Packaged and presented as craft, affordable to a large segment of the public, people did see them as their masterpieces. He also was surprised that the Last Supper was the overall biggest seller. There was more than one at the restaurant.

The paintings have regained popularity today with collectors and artists. There is a Paint By Numbers Online Museum at which you can view, search or learn more about the paintings.I came across an Alice and the Mad Hatter painting at an antique mall and was able to determine the date and manufacturer.

Artists have  also used the paintings for inspiration or as part of  new creative work. One such artist is Trey Speegle. His collection is large and there is an interview available with him as well.

In case you want to create your own pieces, a blog, Under the Sycamore Tree , offers a DIY tutorial on how to change old Goodwill prints into paint by number type art. Using acrylic paints , it will certainly smell better. and looks like fun. If you want no mess, there are several APPS, one is Fingerpaint by Number for iPhone and iPad. I found the iPad version easier to manipulate.

It’s amazing how  now I am seeing Paint by Number pieces almost everywhere I turn. I learned that the Alice is much less expensive on Ebay, only $ 5.00, but that the Asian Farmer is $115.00.  Maybe I should start a collection?

By the way, the Green Goddess dressing dates back to 1923  in San Francisco and the Palace Hotel. The chef created it to honor an actor, George Arliss, who was starring in a production of  The Green Goddess. ( great restaurant in Clarksville, TN)
EGG – the Arts Show –      ( interview with Dan Robbins and Trey Speegle)          ( great to browse)                                    (artist using paint by number in his work)  (Smithsonian exhibit info)

Abandoned Home


B. Silberman

Turning onto a side road

Demoted by the interstate

Into a memory,

A lonely house holds its breath.


Dressed in rusted metal lace

And silvered siding,

Its parched paint wrinkles

Soften in the late afternoon sun.


Drunken doors whisper invitations.

As porches sagging from the weight

Of remembered footsteps,

Discourage casual visitors.


Ambitious vines strangle columns and posts

While roses cavort shamelessly.

The laboring sound of  wasps and wood bees

Muffles its pleas for  rescue.

Hanging Stars!

Oxen on the Side of the Road, the Art of E.T.Wickham

     Just west of Clarksville,in Palmyra, you turn onto an old county road and on the side of the road stand a huge pair of concrete oxen. They are the remains of the work of E.T. Wickham.

   Hurriedly parking the car, you grab a camera and can’t wait to explore. There’s maybe an hour’s light left and a storm is moving in. First you come upon a headless horsemen , a pair of legs with a bomb, and a pair of shoes that represent Patrick Henry.


Off in the woods is a man riding a longhorn bull. This is Wickham’s self-portrait. You try to imagine what they might have looked like full-formed and in color as they were in 1970.

Today, they are weather-worn and assaulted by man. Bullet holes, missing heads and limbs, as well as graffiti mar the surface and make me embarrassed by the actions of others.

Directly across the road, you spy an arched gate strangled by vines and just beyond is a two-room, tin-roofed cabin.Covered in graffiti, you can still see the bright colors beneath the words. There is no door. Upon entering you find a tiny living area to the left. The stone fireplace and mantle have been destroyed. A tiny sink is molded in concrete into the corner wall.Across the hall is a room that might have held a narrow bed.

For eighteen years, Wickham and his wife shared those two rooms as he created his sculptures. Originally he surrounded the cabin with religious pieces and placed two dog statues at the sides of the gate.The only sign of any of these pieces is a moss-covered base beside the cabin.

Making our way through the thicket and back across the road , we returned to the historic sculptures. You can read the inscriptions on the bases which include Andrew Jackson, both Kennedy brothers, Estes Kefauver, and PatrickHenry. Further back in the woods, we came across bases for at least eight other statues  buried in leaves and moss.

Further down the road, we turn onto Oak Ridge and find five more statues facing the road and protected by a fence.We pull up in front of a log cabin and run to shoot more photos. The light is fading as we find an ox head, two men shaking hands, and another headless rider.

As I’m hoping the light and my batteries don’t run out, two dogs come racing up to us. We remember to smile through the fear and they are friendly. Although I felt that I could remain there shooting, it was time to go. Walking back to the car, we meet Sandy Evans, Wickham’s great-granddaughter who lives in the log cabin.Graciously she answers our questions and said that she’d had the statues moved to protect them. Difficult to move, she explained that they haven’t been able to replicate Wickham’s concrete mixture so repairs are nearly impossible.The armatures and textured wire supports are visible in many places and you can see the variety of found and donated  materials that E.T. Wickham used to create his art.

Wickham devoted eighteen years of his life , between 1952 – 1980 to creating the fifty historical and religious figures that lined the road and formed a park.He and his wife raised nine children and when they were grown, Wickham built the two room cabin that they moved into so he could begin his work.

At the time, neighbors and family were of varying opinions, but prominent figures such as General Westmoreland and Estes Kefauver attended dedications for the pieces.

The second piece that Wickham created was an angel with nail pointed wings to stand over the grave of his son lost in World War Two. Three stones stand there, his wife’s and his own flank their son’s.

We left with many more questions and the sense that something needs to be done to preserve Enoch Tanner Wickham’s legacy.

Thanks to an exhibition catalog published by the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville,TN, I was able to see photos of what the area looked like in the 1970’s. I wish I could time travel.

Embrace Abandon

                             We should be having at least as much fun as the statues!

“O Brother ,Where Art Thou?” 2012

The sun is shining on the first day of our road trip. Driving east on Route 70, the speed is fast and the anticipation high as our eyes search the roadside for photos.We slow for a road crew and the signalmen is wearing a black and white striped uniform. Transported in time, I reach for my camera as my friend slows way down. Shooting through the open window, I take two shots ,but for the next miles all we can hear is bluegrass music and think about “O Brother Where Art Thou? “As a throwback to the 30’s, the uniform fits our desire to shoot the old and  abandoned , but it feels so backward and out-of-place.

Continuing down the road, we reach Hollow Rock, Tennessee. The Main Street business district of one block is deserted. Needless to say, we spent some quality time shooting the remains.

It’s sad to see buildings and their towns end up in this state.

Later that night,  I checked online to find out more about the striped uniforms. I learned that I am sadly out of date about jailhouse fashions. I think this is probably a good thing for an elementary school teacher.Although the uniforms were first discontinued by New York in 1904 because they were humiliating, they remained in use until the 1930’s through most of the country and  abolished when they became too expensive. Recently,  counties across the country are re-introducing the striped uniforms as a way to make inmates more easily distinguishable from the public.

Maybe too many people have adopted the orange jumpsuit look and I just didn’t notice, but I can almost see the striped pants or tops lending themselves to a retro fashion statement embraced by designers and teens.

While I , and many others, love to look backward to preserve what was good and beautiful,perhaps the county law enforcement agencies will look forward to create new ideas and solutions. Meanwhile, I can just hear “Man of Constant Sorrow.”

Living on the Edge




I thought this was appropriate for life and road trips. Enjoy!











No Maps, Just Drive

Spring Break! Time for a short road trip! We’ll be heading east towards Nashville on winding back roads, looking for abandoned buildings, drive-ins, antique shops and drugstore soda fountains.The search for the perfect chocolate shake continues.Diets don’t exist .

Road trips can reveal the magic of serendipity, finding unexpected surprise around any bend. During the last trip we tried so hard to locate this abandoned haunted church, and never found a glimpse.But on the way home, around a corner stood this beautiful church and former livery stable. The light was right for infrared and these were the result.

I can’t wait to see what this trip brings!



Leap of Faith


Excuses. Easy to find. Comfortable. Always available.

This morning’s include:

  • It’s a grey rainy morning. ( Go back to sleep.)
  • It’s the first day of vacation. No alarm. ( Go back to sleep.)
  • You lost an hour to the time change. ( Go back to sleep.)
  • I’m not ready to post a blog. I’m not sure of widgets. (Go back to sleep.)
  • Everything has already been said. ( Go back to sleep.)
  • No one will read this or care. You’ll be embarrassed.( Pull the blankets up over your head and stay in bed.)

I’m not sure what made today different, but I put those ancient ballet lessons to good use and pushed publish.

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