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Archive for rural places

sojourn . Old Salem School

Very often while I’m working in my studio, I think about this historic brick structure. It’s the “Old Salem School” off Highway 14 in Noxubee County, and I think of it because the work table I’ve made a habit of painting and block printing on came from the school. Mr. Cotton, the caretaker from the Noxubee County Historical Society, is a long-time family friend, and he gave the kids and me permission to go inside the very dilapidated building last summer. For years, every time we drove by it on the way to Busy Bee, I said I wanted to go inside and see the space. Last summer, we finally did it.

One reason the school is very interesting to me is that my grandfather went to elementary school there in the early 1920s. Not long ago, we were looking through an old lockbox from my grandmother’s house and found his diploma from Salem Consolidated School, promoting him to high school on April 17, 1925. The school is one of the earliest remaining public schools in Noxubee County, and was officially confirmed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

The structure is basically a four room school house in a dog-trot type plan, with stairs in the center hallway and two large rooms on each side of both stories. On one side the rooms have been divided into smaller spaces connected through a series of doorways. My mother said that during some of the years the building was in use, one side was used as housing for teachers or caretakers.

Upstairs on the east side, the remnants of a corner stage area are still there, and as a child, my mom remembers going to community Christmas suppers held in the room with entertainment and even a visit from Santa Claus on the stage. After the building was no longer used as a school, it became sort of a community center available to the Salem community, including Salem Methodist Church and Concord Baptist Church. From the looks of the chalkboard we found inside, Sunday School classes and church meetings were sometimes held there, and my mom remembers going to birthday parties on the property as well.

During our visit, layers of peeling paint and cracked wall plaster revealed the bones of the building, and the aging patina of old chimney pipes, metal ceiling panels and cornices. And although it is in very severe disrepair, we could still see the remnants of wooden bead board chair rails, shiplap walls, movable classroom panels, and even the brass nameplates of families who donated money to install windows and other features. You can see from the angles in the shiplap photo below, that the building is just on the edge of being structurally sound. I’m afraid it may not last much longer, and I’m very glad we were able to visit when we did. It was interesting to see my children explore the space and to imagine someone going to school there. I hope I was able to impart to them the importance of historic buildings and remembering their significance to a community, especially as they listened to their grandmother talk about her own memories there.

After our visit, I nearly begged Mr. Cotton to allow me to rescue two of the last pieces of movable furniture I found there before they were overtaken with weather and falling down ceiling materials. Mom and I loaded an old six-foot wooden table into Dad’s pick-up along with a large chalkboard that was made to hang on sliding panels in the school classrooms. Underneath the graffiti writing of other explorers, the chalkboard still had names on a list titled “To-Day’s Record”, where Sunday School member attendance and offerings were recorded during years when the building was still in use. We brought the table home, cleaned decades of dust and insect friends from it, and added a little reinforcement to the legs to accommodate printmaking duties. It has become a treasured part of my daily studio activities, inspired by the knot holes and rusted nails as reminders of the heritage I imagine happened there. One of this summer’s projects will be to restore the chalkboard to hang in our entryway, and in the repainting, I plan to replicate that Sunday School secretary’s hand-writing as we create a space to document our own “To-Day’s Record.”


sojourn . Summer Farm Views



The children and I are spending this week at the farm to celebrate the start of summer vacation. It’s a great excuse to enjoy some down time, play time with the kids, exploring, and good times free sketching and painting.

We were last here in March when the scenery was just beginning to show signs of spring. Now, we seem to see green in various hues peeking through every possible crevice, and the pastures look almost completely full of growth. This trip, I brought my Canon SLR, and I took a short walk to capture some of the scenes after we arrived. I loved these views of the “nail hole constellations” in the tractor shed walls. In a dark, shadowed space, the tiniest pin hole of light just seems to grow and vibrate.






summer of water . Tuesday 060314

I call this one Cow-ish 🙂
Happy Tuesday from the farm!

summer of water . friday 053014

The kids and I are spending the next week at the farm with my parents for a change of scenery and a kick-off to summer vacation, so I’ll be posting paintings from here for a few days. We arrived late this afternoon when the sky had some gray clouds rolling in. But, that was only the weather — no reflection on our disposition.

We’re somewhat roughing it in the tech department at the farm – just using data plans for internet connection (and a personal hot spot for work pinches. At home, I’ve been scanning the paintings so you can see the more crisp and uniform color. Here, I’m relying on photos with farmhouse lighting, but you’ll get the idea.

I’m not sure how we’ll feel about art time over the weekend, and I’m not holding myself to the daily painting on Saturday & Sunday. We’ll see how the days go for the next Summer of Water installment,

Farm Days

Friday is here, and we’re all getting excited. Today, we’re heading back to the farm for the week of spring break. We haven’t been there since Thanksgiving, and I’m looking forward to seeing the changing light and landscape, and hopefully a little Spring in bloom. I was looking back at a few photos from our last visit. I hope I can share some of the same views next week!

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photo essay . Icy Puddles


We’ve had a few milder Spring-like days this week — the typical January indecisiveness of Mississippi weather. It’s been fun to go out without coats, but we are anticipating the return of the cold tonight. Below-freezing temps had me thinking back to some icy walks we took during our Thanksgiving farm trip, and some photos I never shared. What began as an alert that “there’s GLASS on the road!!” ended with some chilly fun looking at the patterns water makes as it freezes. (And of course, the sound it makes as we break it!)  Winter has its own frosty beauty, even for those of us in the Deep South. Happy Wednesday!

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log . Farm Journey One


I think I mentioned that we are spending the week at our family farmhouse for Thanksgiving holidays. I’ve taken care of a few client details remotely this week, but for the most part I’m enjoying some down time and concentrated time with my kiddos. I brought a few arts and crafts projects that we’ve been enjoying, like the stamping designs I shared yesterday — a good thing because we’ve had a few rainy, cold days. Still, not much can keep us from exploring gravel roads and hay yards while we’re here, so I thought I’d share part one of views from our farm journeys. Overcast November days make for a nicely monochromatic palette, at times. I love the mood that flat light and neutral colors create. I hope you’ve have a chance to wander this week.





sketch journal . 031313


I experimented with some “plein air” watercolor yesterday while the kids played tag at the farm hay yard. Kind of a fun way to capture this 3 x 5″ memory.

log . Wood, Stone and Water

As I mentioned a few posts ago, we are at our family farm house in Noxubee County for spring break. We’ve been enjoying some great weather and time together. Through our outdoor escapades, the kids have decided to curate a “science exhibit” of interesting finds. The finds have been interesting, indeed, and the process of collecting them even more inspiring for me. I thought I’d share a little documentation of our pasture journeys in search of water, wood & stone. Our “finding” has including walking, jumping, climbing, painting, building, talking about family history, playing impromptu instruments, searching, laughing, discovering… Fun times! I hope you have the chance to do some of the same this week

still life 031113 . Natural Treasures

My kids and I are celebrating Spring Break at our family’s farm house this week. It’s a joy and a privilege to be able to take time out of our normal routine to enjoy giving them my mostly undivided attention. We’ve committed ourselves to walking the gravel roads and pastures as much as possible in search of treasures. Of course, for me, the real treasure is their smiling, wind-blown faces. But, the flowers and sticks and such will do too! Creatively, I’m spending the week to recharge. I had already prepared a couple of things to share with you this week and I have my sketch journal, but mostly I’m framing up some of our experiences with my iPhone Hipstamatic and my Canon. I hope to share some of the photos this week and following. Meanwhile, here are collages of some of the natural treasures found on our Saturday and Sunday walks. What’s been particularly fun has been finding, smelling and picking some of the Spring bulbs my grandmother and great-grandmother planted on these acres — daffodils, paper whites, irises, hyacinths. Some mark long-torn-down fence rows and homesteads. A real treasure to have gracing our window sill this week.

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