And contrast I have! Home and mindlessly picking my olives after being on the road for five weeks is bliss. The whirlwind tour was one of the top tours of my life from many different perspectives. Discovering that my 200+ works in storage had been spared from damage by a recent tornado in Atlanta, travelling across the southern States under clear blue skies, and meeting people in every walk of life were but a few of the delights I experienced. Every minute of my tour, just like every hair on my head was counted and cared for by the divine guiding hand.
With my US travel team of sons Sergio and Jimmy, and my wonderful assistant Margaret Spencer, we navigated a five-city tour with film screenings, painting workshops, and keynote lectures along the way.
From Atlanta to Texas and back again, each stop brought joyous reunions with cherished family members, longtime collectors, and newest followers, dear school pals, childhood neighbors, and friends from every walk of life.
My US tours always begin with packing up works chez Nancy and Dickey (my cousins in Atlanta), which has been my home base for decades now! After many happy years in Atlanta, my dear cousins are settling permanently at their home in Thomson, GA. This meant packing up years of accumulated art supplies, artwork, and memorabilia I had stored in their basement and moving it into storage. No words can express how grateful I am to Nancy and Dickey for all they have done for me over the years.
After packing the vans to the brim with paintings, lithographs, and sculptures, we set our course for Huntsville, AL, where Emily and Jack Moody hosted what was indeed a show to remember! Perhaps because my mother grew up down the road in Scottsboro, or because so many dear friends and steadfast collectors always come out to support me when I come to town, Huntsville feels like going home. The Moody’s beautiful home and good cheer from set-up to take-down set the stage for a roster of incredible shows to come. Emily and Jack were helping us carry paintings to the car well into the night before we pulled up stakes and headed for Fort Worth, stopping the night at the home of Cathy and George May in Jackson, MS to break up the drive.
In Fort Worth, we had the pleasure of showing in the beautiful home of Terry and Chris Pruitt, where I collaborated with the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on a drawing workshop and keynote lecture. The women of the FW Garden Club, Susanne Avondet, and Teresa Hubbard welcomed me warmly, and put on a wonderful collaborative event. Sarah Gentry and her family were gracious hosts, letting us have the run of her beautiful home during our time in Fort Worth. It was a joy getting to know Terry and Chris and reconnecting with their daughter Kirsten, a recent workshop participant and study-abroad student in Aix-en-Provence. In addition, Grace Darden joined my team while we were in Texas.
From Fort Worth, we made the short trip to Dallas, where Jeanne and Tony McClung hosted us for a whole week. The schedule included a screening of James Ruffato’s film Painting the Invisible, which played to a packed house. Later that week, my dear friend Ellen McDowell hosted a two-day oil painting workshop at her home, where I delved into Van Gogh and my Provençal palette with 12 eager and accomplished painters.
From Texas, we made our way back east for our next show in Chattanooga, spending a night in Memphis at the home of Jane and Charles Slatery to break up the long drive. Our next stop in Lookout Mountain, TN, felt like an escape from the “real world,” probably because it reminded me so much of going back to Camp Desoto. As always, Margaret Ann and Jim Bentley, and Ann Evans were great hosts. It was a pleasure getting to see family and friends, especially my sister Lee and her husband Martin.
After four cities and sets of shows, we were all excited to head to the coast for some rest, relaxation, and one more show, screening, and workshop. I had the privilege of painting during the church service at Amelia Plantation Chapel, alongside Rev. Dr. Conrad Sharps’ sermon, and Barbara and John Hopkins, who coordinated my visit and hosted me throughout the week. Following the service, James screened his film Painting the Invisible in the sanctuary, which was a spiritual and memorable experience. Our fabulous host and steadfast friend Sarah Edwards was with us from set-up to take-down of the show at Amelia Island Club, hosting me and providing indispensable help with the two-day oil painting workshop that followed the art show.
The tour would not have been possible without… my family, particularly sons Sergio and Jimmy, my tireless assistant Hayley Davis, Margaret Spencer, Bonnie Young, Nancy and Dickey Norris, Kim O’Brien, and each host and hostess.
They welcomed us into their homes and let us take over their walls:
Emily and Jack Moody, Terry and Chris Pruitt, Jeanne and Tony McClung, Ellen McDowell, Margaret Ann and Jim Bentley, Sarah Edwards and Tracy Belton showed genuine hospitality and generosity of spirit. Their warmth has made this an exceptional tour.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me! Thank you to each person who hosted me, came to a show, participated in a workshop, or followed along via social media. It has been all the more meaningful because of you.
Photo credit: James Ruffato – www.jamesruffato.com/