What is the meaning of life? I am finding it out more and more as each day comes. Each person I meet is a gift and what I receive from each person is a flicker of light that touches my soul and changes the darker shades into light.
It is good to be back home, chez moi, in Aix after my spring tour! My heart is full and my energy high after a month in the US connecting with friends, family and my roots. Though brief, this tour allowed weeklong stays in each city — from Atlanta, GA to Jackson, MS, to Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, TN and back to Atlanta.
I felt embraced by all of you who hosted and joined us along the road and felt the cathartic nostalgia of connecting and reconnecting with friends from all over. This trip took me back to my family’s farm in Shakerag Georgia, welcomed in an unimaginably perfect way —a poignant moment to share with my boys in a place that sparks so many fond memories.
After packing the cars full of artwork in Atlanta, our first stop was Jackson, MS. Our incredible experience in Jackson in early April was due to an outpouring of generosity from so many, including the “Friends of Jill”, a group created by Lind Bussey and Cathy May, that donated funds for the show and proceeds for The McCoy House Extended Care for Women. I was privileged to do a talk and drawing workshop at The McCoy House, whose mission and faculty have greatly inspired me. If you have a few minutes, watch this wonderful video about “The Power of Art” that was made during my visit. A beautiful oil painting workshop at Patty and Jeff Christie’s farm, a drawing workshop at Lind Bussey’s and a pastel workshop at Donna McVey’s started the tour on a strong note and fueled my trajectory for the rest of the trip.
Our shows at the Country Club of Jackson featured a luncheon organized by Cathy May and the Gallery Guild where I spoke about my journey as an artist and my strong connection to Vincent Van Gogh. The event continued into the evening with a celebration of almost 100 works of art: oil paintings, lithographs and my son, Sergio’s sculptures. We were overwhelmed with the response from the Jackson community.
The following two days the Garden Club of Jackson hosted us for an open house in the beautiful home of Joy Cannada, followed by the gardens and home of Christie Walker, where I did a painting demo during the garden party. Thanks to Collette McIntyre and Holly Crystal for your work organizing these events, and to Katie Breese for your steadfast friendship.
From Jackson, I stopped in Anniston, AL to do a commission painting in the trees at Debbie and Aaron Acker’s peaceful hideaway, Beechwood Springs, and had the unique opportunity to sketch while their daughter, Abigail Workman, played the harp for us.
Easter week was spent painting on Lookout Mountain, TN with Grace Darden, who helped me tirelessly throughout the tour. Catherine and Charlie Walldorf hosted us for over a week while we painted and had the big fundraiser for the Salvation Army at The Mountain City Club in Chattanooga. The painting days took me all over—to Olmsted’s Garden of the Gods hillside park, The Little Brown Church on Signal Mountain and sunrises over the East Brow above the city. I reconnected with my roots, my family, celebrated Easter in good company and enjoyed the meditative days of painting.
The Mountain City Club hosted us from Easter Sunday through the days following and showcased our work in an idyllic space. Our final luncheon included an artist talk led by myself and my son, Sergio, as well as clips from my son Jimmy’s documentary “Painting the Invisible”.
On my last day in Chattanooga , I did a book signing with my good friend and author, Elizabeth Musser, hosted by Miriam and Katie Thompson at their interiors showroom, The Rug Rack. We made many new and strong connections through our hosts, the Walldorfs and the Bentleys, and are fortunate to have had extended time up on the mountain.
Finished with the shows and workshops, we packed the car for the final time and headed back to Atlanta, GA, where I concluded my tour with a book signing at the historic Swan Coach House with Elizabeth Musser and danced all night at the Swan Ball with my friends: Sheffield and Elizabeth Hale and Georgia Schley and Diff Ritchie. It’s been years that I had been wanting to meet the singer and such a Camp Desoto icon, Caroline Herring Crespino! I spent a wonderful evening in her home with her family. Painting in Bainbridge on Lake Douglas was the serene ending to my trip. Congratulations to Cat & Schmoo on their wedding!
A special thanks to the Friends of Jill in Jackson, whose sponsorship made my shows and workshops possible:
Melissa Abraham, Kathy Accardi, Katie Breese, Lisa Busby, Lind Bussey, Ann Carter, Cody Christie, Patty Christie, Susan Coffin, Kelley Fenelon, Pat Flowers, Kathleen Geary, Catherine Glover, Julie Gresham, Paula Hood, Pamela Houchins, Linda Lewis, Beth Lloyd, Ginny Lloyd, Courtney Love, Cathy May, Martha McIntosh, Lawanna McLennan, Donna McVey, Deetsa Molpus, Kellye Montjoy, Finney Moore, Tay Morgan, Camille Morris, Cissye Mounger, Susan Nix, Betty Parry, Ella Jane Putnam, Lisa Rice, Betsy Ritter, Tricia Sadler, Carol Sneed, Holly Story, Ingrid Taylor, Ginger Tramel, Mollie Van Devender, Callie Wesson and Karan York.
I am grateful to my team – my sons, Sergio and Jimmy, Hayley Davis, Kim O’Brien, who is my new “Nancy & Dickey” or Atlanta go-to person (although no one could ever fill their shoes!) and Grace Darden, Bonnie Young, my family, my incredible hosts and friends who organized the events and welcomed me into their homes, and to my husband, Serge, who keeps everything together while I’m away.
Happy to be back in the comfort of my home, but I hold these times close and each of you who make my time in the US memorable.