The Crossroads of Memories

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Through the 14 quarterly issues of Delta Crossroads magazine, stories and images that help create the magic of this part of our wonderful state have been shared with our readers.

It has been fun, but also educational. My wife Nancy has worked tirelessly to present each issue in a comprehensive, unique and creative manner. Her own writing and photographic talent has shown forth in the magazine's pages, along with the great contributions of members of our staff and other contributors.

Art has been an integral part of the journey and the work of numerous talented painters has graced the pages. The Arkansas Delta has been, and continues to be, the home of many outstanding artists.

We would maintain the foremost Arkansas Delta artist is Earle native, and longtime Memphis resident, Carroll Cloar (1913-1993).

References to his work have appeared in several issues of Delta Crossroads, including the summer edition, which details "The Crossroads of Memory, Carroll Cloar and the American South," an amazing collection on display at Brooks Museum at Memphis through Sept. 15.

Nancy and I and granddaughters Anna and Maggie traveled to Memphis last Saturday to view the exhibit (and, in deference to the children, Elvis Presley's Graceland). We were somewhat pressed for time and definitely plan to make another visit to allow a more complete study of these marvelous works.

Some 70 Cloar paintings have been assembled from museums and private collections for display in Memphis, and later at the Arkansas Arts Center and the Georgia Museum of Art.

We can't imagine that any other painter has ever captured the essence of the Delta at this level. As the museum's news release says, Cloar's works "transcend time and space." In focusing on the amazing work, one is drawn back to an earlier time but also to the present in terms of the universal emotions and truths that are communicated (particularly for those who have lived and worked in this part of the world).

Cloar said his work captures "American faces...timeless dress and timeless customs...the last of old America that isn't long for this earth." Nancy and I recently traveled through the area of Cloar's childhood, north of Earle, and it is easy to understand why the artist described his work in that manner -- it is a landscape rapidly becoming devoid of the people, customs and lifestyle seen in these masterworks. Standing alone among the beautiful trees in the cemetery of Gibson Bayou Church (the setting for one of his most famous paintings) one is drawn back to an earlier time that is indeed vanishing before us.

In addition to the themes and emotions that Cloar so powerfully develops, the skill and brilliance of a master craftsman also jumps forth. Several references at the exhibit are to the complex and sophisticated techniques employed by Cloar and his relationship to several unique artistic styles and movements.

"The paintings of Carroll Cloar rank among the most haunting and beautiful evocations ever made of the American South," the museum exhibitors note. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this comprehensive collection of Cloar's work on the 100th anniversary of his birth in the Gibson Bayou area, Earle, Crittenden County, Arkansas.