The weather in Florida at this time of the year is perfect. Once again
I am feeling warm and my early morning walks with The Street Walkers
does not necessitate the bundles of warm clothing I have been wearing
when walking with Nancy in Mathews. As we walk our customary route along
the paths beside the sea, the sun rises from the far side of Tampa Bay.
At first blood orange red, its color softens as it leaves the waters
of the Bay and climbs higher in the sky. When I get home I open all
the windows and let the breeze sweep away the stale air of winter.
Harold Brown working with Pat for her portrait.
The past week has been one of much activity. On Wednesday
I was at a photo session in Alexandria, Virginia. Washington photographer
Harold Brown is putting together an exhibit of portraits to be shown
at the National Press Club in Washington in the fall. Selecting one
photo out of the sixty-four that he took of me that morning was not
easy. Eventually we settled on a portrait that also showed a painting
I did thirty years ago of my son Christopher, the youngest of my children.
I cannot show you the portrait at this time because it is being kept
under wraps until July 8th when it will be unveiled at a special celebration
of the Museum's birthday.
On Thursday I was in Waynesboro for the unveiling of my 2004 WVPT print.
Burt Schmidt, President of Public Television station WVPT, announced
that the money raised from my prints over the past twenty-five years
has earned more than one million dollars for the P. Buckley Moss Fund
for Cultural Enrichment. This fund has enabled the station to air children's
programs for twelve hours each day and purchase many cultural programs
suited to all ages. I am thankful to WVPT for this opportunity to help
serve the Valley's cultural needs and in particular to provide quality
programs for children's viewing.
Pat at the WVPT gala. On her right is Burt Schmidt, President General
Manager of WVPT TV and on her left is Chester Bradfield, Owner of Good
Printers. Good Printers has printed the WVPT prints for the past twenty
years and last year's image, Autumn, received the Virginia
State award for the best art print.
The next morning Malcolm and I were up at 4 a.m. and on the road to
Richmond to catch our flight to St Petersburg. On arrival our first
call was to the new Finn Gallery which represents my work now that our
own gallery has closed because of the redevelopment of the waterfront
area. I was delighted with the gallery and congratulate Tim Finn. He
has created a most pleasant setting for showing my art. This weekend
I will be at the gallery to mark its official opening.
On Saturday Malcolm and I attended a talk given by our Bocas friends
Clyde and Phyllis Stephens at the original location of the Cracker house
which was Clyde's family's home and where he and five siblings were
reared. The house has been preserved by the Manatee County Historical
Society and moved from Southwest of Zolfo Springs in West Hardee County
Clyde Stephens introducing friends to his family's Cracker Homestead.
The meeting was more like a reunion of old soldiers because the audience
was mostly made up of Clyde's banana buddies, all ex-employees of the
United Fruit Company and their wives who had served with the Stephens
in the banana countries of Central America. Our links were through knowing
Clyde and Phyllis in Bocas, where they have a fantastic property on
a peninsula from which you can watch the banana ships pass on their
way to the mainland port.
Clyde's grandfather was a homesteader who came South by oxen to pioneer
in what was to become known as Cracker country, a name given to the
white farmers by the Seminole Indians because they cracked their whips
when driving cattle.
Until now I had not considered the hardships faced by those who homesteaded
in Florida even though some of my mother's sisters homesteaded near
Miami. When thinking of pioneers, my mind had focused on those who first
settled the Western Reserve of Ohio and beyond and the others who crossed
The Blue Ridge Mountains to settle the Shenandoah Valley. I had not
appreciated the hardships of the people who came South after the Civil
War from Georgia and Alabama into the heartland of Florida to scrape
out a living on its poor sandy soil and face the perils of malaria,
snakes and alligators.
The wind carrying through the dog-trot down the center of the Cracker
Clyde graduated from the University of Florida to become one of the
World's leading experts on banana plants. I have admired Clyde's ingenuity
and now I know its roots are in his rural upbringing.
Later Clyde described his home life as we stood in the kitchen of the
house in its new location. It was then that I felt nostalgic for the
simple times of his youth and my own. We did not have many luxuries
but did not feel the need for them as we do nowadays. There was no air-conditioning
then for the likes of us but Clyde told how he could not remember the
house feeling uncomfortably hot, even in the height of summer. The house
had a passageway, called a dog-trot, that passed through its center
before dividing to continue on either side of the kitchen. The prevailing
wind flowed down the dog-trot cooling the rooms to either side. You
can get the idea of this arrangement from the photograph I took while
standing in the entrance facing the kitchen.
I could go on relating all we learned that day but this is not the
place to do so. Now to a surprise gift. The hint I gave Malcolm about
hoping for a mountain bike for my birthday precipitated him into giving
me his planned present early. I am illustrating the etching that is
his gift and making it my art piece of this week's letter. Yes! As you
can guess from all the activity of recent days, I did not get much studio
time and so for my own work you will have to wait until next week.
I took this photo of my birthday gift on an angle so as to avoid
a reflection from the glass. It still shows what a superb print this
Summernight in Greenwich Village is a print from the collection
of etchings Malcolm formed thirty years ago. It has always been a favorite
of mine, not only because of its superb drawing and execution but also
because Greenwich Village has dear memories of the days when I was a
student at The Cooper Union. Now it gets to hang in one of my studios.
The print is the work of Martin Lewis, 1881-1962. The medium is dry
point and sand ground. Another copy of this print is in the Detroit
On Thursday my sister and brother-in-law arrive from Texas.
My brother and his wife were coming from Pittsburgh but they have just
sold their house and therefore are otherwise occupied. They have been
looking to move to Florida. I am hoping that will happen now so they
will be within easy driving distance.
Malcolm leaves for Panama next Monday where he will be supervising
the distribution to schools of the computers donated by Texas Hovercraft,
following up on our other education initiatives and attending to his
farm. I will be hard at work in the studio here.
Goodbye until next week.