The Treasures of the Delta

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My wife Nancy and I continue to enjoy traveling throughout and learning about Eastern Arkansas, much of it now associated with articles, photos and themes for the Delta Crossroads magazine that our newspaper company publishes.

Nancy is now devoting much of her part-time work to the magazine and she constantly is on the lookout for interesting places and people that constitute present-day Delta life.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the amazing Carroll Cloar art exhibit now on display at the Brooks Museum in Memphis. We made the initial visit with two of our young granddaughters. They were interested, but understandably not as much as the two of us. Therefore, we made a decision to go back a couple of weeks later with friends and also enjoy a sidewalk dinner in downtown Memphis.

We were able to absorb a lot more information about the great artist on our second trip and continue to be amazed not only with his vision of Arkansas Delta life in an earlier time, but also his sophisticated technical skills.

With that background, we were delighted to see a major feature story on Cloar in Sunday's edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It is a brilliant article by staffer Kirk Montgomery, a writer who clearly understands the appeal and depth of Cloar and also has the skill to express the nature of his genius.

We were pleased to see that Montgomery just came right out and said Cloar is Arkansas' greatest artist. "It is the intersection of Cloar's memories of the Delta with his artistic ability and training that make Cloar the most acclaimed artist from the state of Arkansas and Memphis' premier painter," Montgomery wrote.

Dr. Stanton Thomas, who has assembled the approximately 80 paintings, takes an additional step, calling Cloar "the most important artist from the mid-South." That's quite a tribute to an unassuming young man who grew up on his family's cotton farm north of Earle.

Nancy and I took another trip along that route last Saturday and stopped at the Gibson Bayou Church and Cemetery, the subject for one of Cloar's most famous paintings. His ashes were scattered at the cemetery following his death in 1993. The current exhibit is in commemoration of the 100th year of the artist's birth in 1913.

We also visited the railroad depot in Earle that is a subject of another of his paintings -- showing him with his parents getting ready to board a train for a favorite travel location, Hot Springs. The depot is now a museum.

We ended the relaxing and informative day in the Delta by enjoying a delicious dinner at Uncle John's in Crawfordsville. It is a great little restaurant with an interesting history -- owned over the years by the Marconi family. If all goes as planned, you will read about it in the next issue of Delta Crossroads.