Back To Black Belt Treasures

A couple of weeks ago, we made a special trip to Black Belt Treasures in Camden. It had been a while since our last visit and I couldn't wait to see all the new things they had - plus I was looking forward to a surprise visit with my friend Sulynn there, who really is a treasure all her own.

One of the things what makes Black Belt Treasures so interesting is that they only accept art made by people who live in the Black Belt...so when you visit, it's exciting just to see who they have discovered now.

Everything was looking *so* beautiful - displays of functional pottery and face jugs:

More pottery and baskets:

Works by Charlie Lucas, including the framed "Rag Lady":


Jack-o-lanterns by Miller Pottery, a multi-generational Black Belt pottery:

Even more beautiful quilts (some quilts they carry are by the Freedom Quilting Bee):


...I really wanted to bring home this wreath:

What we did bring home were some ceiling fan pulls for the boys' rooms:

...and this large wooden hanging ornament by Tyree McCloud (who did all the Gee's Bend murals) of a Loretta Pettway quilt:
Not sure if I want to spray it with some kind of weatherproofing and hang it in the garden, or enjoy it inside...

Earlier this month "President Obama: A Celebration in Art Quilts" closed in Maryland. The Alliance for American Quilts has pics of the quilts and interviews with the quilters at their site here. This quilt by Susan Shie is...wow!

21 Months, and 5 Months

The baby is five months old now!

He discovered his feet a couple of weeks ago and loves grabbing onto them.  He just smiles *all* the time!

Shug is getting so big, and has such a funny sense of humor.  

He likes playing with this huge ball - and playing quarterback with daddy using his little UVa football.

Buttermilk Pie

In last week's B'ham News, there was an article about Robyn Poarch of Porch Pies who grew up here in Alabama and is now in Hollywood, California selling her pies for $30-$35/ea.  She says:

"Back home, they'd never pay $30 for those pies," Poarch says. "But out here, there are people who have never heard of a chocolate chess pie or a buttermilk pie. The buttermilk recipe is so easy, it's embarrassing. It's our best-seller, but it's very hard to describe a buttermilk pie. I tell them the buttermilk is kind of like a Southern creme brulee."

Ohmystars!  Never heard of a buttermilk pie?  For shame.

Well, that put me in the mood to make one of my buttermilk pies (which is like a sister to chess pie).  I've made lime buttermilk chess pie and chocolate chess pie here before but this time decided to make buttermilk pie in its simplest form.

6 tbsp. butter, softened
1-1/2 c. sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp flour
1-1/3 c. buttermilk
3 tsp. lemon juice
pie pastry (if you use ready-made, use regular rather than deep-dish size for this)

Preheat oven to 350*.

In the Kitchenaid, cream together the butter and sugar until completely incorporated and a pretty yellow:

Keep the Kitchenaid running and add in the egg yolks one by one.  Now add the flour, and pour in the buttermilk slowly, finishing with the lemon juice.  Take a spatula and go around the bowl, making sure that everything is mixed well.  Give it one last whirl, then pour into the crust:

Bake in the center rack of the oven.  Start checking on it at 40 minutes, but I've never gotten this pie done in less than one hour - usually at about 65 minutes it is perfect:
I like this pie chilled a bit so after it comes to room temperature, I set it in the refrigerator, and this also helps make certain that it is set completely before serving.  Yum!

Miss Eudora

All weekend I've been reading the new book Eudora Welty: Occasions.  It's a collection of selected writings of hers that includes everything from a few short stories...

...to letters to editors about her errors writing about an eccentric subject:
First, I had said her watch was silver, when it was gold - how could I have done a thing like that to her? and she took it out of its hiding place and put it under my eyes.  Second, I had left out Sudie, who had helped her in the store for six years and Sudie felt so bad about it - "Sudie, Sudie!  Come stand here and let Miss Wealthy see how bad you feel - that's right - that's all, Sudie, get on back."

...to Charles Dickens' recipe for eggnog which her family enjoyed each Christmas:
It was ladled from the punch bowl into punch cups and silver goblets, and had to be eaten with a spoon.  It stood up in peaks. 

...to her admonition that there were not enough books in Mississippi hospitals and institutions:
To the perpetual child and the limited in mind, to the sick and infirm, and to the morally wavering, reading permits pleasure still, and this may be a pleasure greater than they've so far known: hope.

...a recipe for Aunt Beck's chicken pie, which includes sliced hard-cooked eggs

...explaining the Southern writer's inheritance:
It is nothing new or startling at Southerners to write - probably they must write...
Children who grow up listening through rewarding stretches of unhurried time, reading in big lonely rooms, dwelling in the confidence of slow-changing places, are naturally more prone than other children to be entertained...  They cannot help being impressed by a world around them where history has happened in the yard or come into the house, where all round the countryside big things happened and monuments stand to the memory of fiery deeds still to be heard from the lips of grandparents, the columns in the field or the familiar cedar avenue to nothing, where such-and-such a house once stood.  

...to her letters back and forth with Katherine Anne Porter

...to writing to The New Yorker in 1948 in defense of William Faulkner

Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Also, I saw in the latest Smithsonian Magazine an article about an exhibit of Eudora Welty's photography that is moving from the Museum of the City of New York to the Mississippi Museum of Art and will be be opening there in Jackson on April 11th:

Slotin Folk Art Auction On Saturday

Saturday is the first Slotin Folk Art Auction of the year - the Spring Masterpiece Sale. On the cover is a B.F. Perkins "Cherokee Love Birds" on orange.

This sale is going directly through Live Auctioneers online (not eBay this time) for those of us who won't be bidding in person or absentee or phone bid.  

There are some really fantastic pieces in the sale:
Lanier Meaders, Double-face candelabra jug
circus banners
Howard Finster
Sam Doyle
Clementine Hunter
Sister Gertrude Morgan
Thornton Dial
Purvis Young
Charlie Lucas
B.F. Perkins
Ted Gordon
Jimmy Lee Sudduth
Minnie Adkins carvings *and* quilts
Sybil Gibson
Mary T. Smith
Mose T
Bernice Sims
Mr. Imagination
Missionary Mary Proctor
Michael Banks
James Harold Jennings
Lonnie Holley
Sultan Rogers
Minnie and Tinnie Pettway Quilt
Other quilts (love this quilt top especially)

...and probably at least 100 other artists.  Can't wait!


For months now I have noticed an ad in New York Magazine for the Gina Gallery of International Naiive Art.  

Love it!

When I was in college, one of my best friends was an art major at Montevallo, and one day we decided to go to the museum.  Well, this wasn't just your average trip to the museum "oh I like this...that's different...etc etc etc" this was all him explaining "okay, see the way she has her head tilted this way?  That is indicative of... and see how in this painting the subject's fingers and feet are so slender and out of proportion?  That is from the period in art that..." and so on.  Oh, much more detailed and grandiose than I will go into here.  Of course, when you're a junior or senior in college you think you know everything in the world anyway.  It was so enjoyable though, because he knew all these little details I would have never caught on to.  

*But* at a certain point, I just admitted to him that what I really enjoyed was the art that was pretty and happy.  

Not all naiive art is pretty and happy, but it is straight-forward.  Not much explanation needed.

The first painting Av and I bought together was at a gallery in New Orleans right after we got married - it was a painting that's about 24" x 36" by Haitian artist Edner Jean.  It's of people picking cotton (I come from people a couple or three generations ago who planted and picked cotton, so...I naturally like paintings of people planting and picking cotton...).  

Simple.  Nothing abstract:

Anyway, Gina Gallery features artists from about 25 countries, but only one artist representing the USA - Robert Logrippo.

This one by Mariangeles Puente Duran in Argentina reminds me of Sesame Street (remember the grocer?).

Orchid Show

I Tivoed something the other day that was talking about how from now through April 12th, the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show is going on.  There are a ton of pics on Flickr from it here.  

For the first time ever, there are two orchids here at home that are in bloom again at the same time - this one:

And this other one, which...

...if you look at it up close (I didn't realize until I looked at the picture) - doesn't it look strange!?  Pretty, but strange.

I think it's gotten pretty enough now to let all the orchids live outside again for the summer...I may put them out on the porch this weekend.  And it's definitely time to plant the windowboxes and till up the garden...

Kosciusko Monuments

Since we were in Kosciusko to visit Miss Hull's house, we took these pics at the cemetery which is just a couple of blocks away.  

This couple, the Burdines, had 19 children together - their names are all on the center part of the monument:

The best-known monument here is of Laura Kelly who died in 1890.  Her husband had a sculptor in Italy make a monument of her from a picture of her on their wedding day:

At the time of her death, Mr. Kelly was having their home built, so people say that is why he asked the architect to add on a third story - so that he would be able to see her monument from that window: 

Living Close To A Top Global Destination

Frommers has listed the 12 "best new" destinations for 2009, and among them - Washington DC, Capetown, Belfast, Istanbul, Berlin - is the Civil Rights Trail from Selma to Montgomery (that's the Edmund Pettus bridge I took a pic of a couple of years ago, above).  

They say:
What happened forty years ago between Selma and Montgomery -- the antecedent for the Voting Rights Act -- is why the U.S. will welcome Barack Obama into the White House this year. It's additionally important because the U.S. southeast is rich both historically and culturally, and the Trail provides a very accessible window to an often overlooked region by tourists. The Civil Rights Trail captures a moment in history through its many small museums -- both in Selma and Montgomery -- and also in the journey visitors take to travel from place to place. For families, it's a well-marked trail that offers changing views, numerous stops, and the type of generational discussions that great journeys are made of. Highlights include the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the Slavery & Civil War Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum, and the Maya Lin-designed Civil Rights Monument.

This is the Maya Lin-designed Civil Rights Monument:
Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery AL

The Washington Post just did a story about the trail, too.

Barn Quilts

Last year, I wrote about how Kentucky is doing a quilt trail right now in ten eastern counties that feature painted quilt squares hung on barns:

And in Tennessee, they are doing the Appalachian Quilt Trail:

...they're doing preorders for a special quilt trail car tag too.

There are more quilt trails: western North Carolina, Alcona County in Michigan, western New York...

Here in Alabama, there are a set of ten Gee's Bend quilt designs made into murals (real 8 ft. x 8ft. on plywood murals, not quilt designs on barns) that were finished and installed around Gee's Bend last year.


There's a company in North Carolina called Way Back When Barn Quilts that will even ship premade/prepainted barn quilts with the hardware necessary to hang them:
...and will take custom orders for patterns they don't stock.


Can you imagine Gee's Bend quilts like Lola Pettway's Housetop Variation or Nancy Pettway's Bricklayer Variation or Nettie Young's Houstop Medallion or well, really, any of these quilt designs that are currently available at the Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle on barns all over Alabama?  That would be something else!  

Lots About Lane Cake, TKAM, And A Carrot Cake Recipe

Yesterday for St. Patrick's Day, for whatever reason, instead of making corned beef and cabbage or boxtys or anything else, I made a cake.  A carrot cake.  

Outside, the daffodils have been blooming and I know the azaleas aren't too far behind...it just feels like Spring and Spring means food like carrot cakes.

Well, actually I've been in the mood to make a Lane cake (it's also called "Prize Cake") but at the moment I can't have any alcohol, so...no alcohol, no Lane cake.  For now.  Anyway, Lane cake is a special-occasion cake.  It is *the cake* of Alabama.  

And one thing about Lane cake is that it is made in pie tins rather than cake pans.  I was wondering if I remembered that right, and sure enough they mention it in the Encyclopedia of Alabama article as well as this really-really fantastic thing I found: the Southern Food and Beverage Museum put together a lesson plan called "Food in To Kill A Mockingbird".

It's wonderful!  It includes quotes in TKaM about food/eating, like:
“If you can’t act fit to eat at the table, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen!”
(Calpurnia to Scout)

“Soon as I can get my hands clean and when Stephanie Crawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane Cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years,
and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her she’s got
another think coming.” (Miss Maudie)

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of another.” (Miss Maudie to Scout and Jem)

“Your fat streaks are showin’.” (Jem to Scout, referring to the white lines in her Halloween costume)

“They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs.” (Miss Maudie to Jem and Scout about mockingbirds)

And then, there are 37 multiple-choice questions, like:

Aunt Alexandra comes to Maycomb to live with the Finch household. To celebrate the occasion, Scout notes that: “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane Cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” What does “shinny” mean?
A. It’s a slang term used in the 1920s and 30s for illegal liquor.
B. It means to maneuver up a tree or post.
C. It’s coffee that is very strong and bitter.
D. It’s a type of orange juice that is very sour.

There are also questions and discussion topics on food and social justice in TKaM, gender roles in TKaM, a food timeline, a crossword puzzle, and more.

One section is about Lane cake:
Lane Cake is a symbol of the South
The first recipe for Lane Cake was first printed in Some Good Things to Eat, by Mrs. Emma Rylander Lane, which she self-published in 1898. It was originally called Prize cake because it placed first in a baking contest at a county fair in Columbus, Georgia, where Mrs. Lane was demonstrating ranges.

For more than a century, it has been a special occasion cake in the South and the pride of the state of Alabama.

Lane Cakes look simple from the outside but there is more to this cake than meets the eye.

Lane Cakes generally are considered by many to be difficult to make due to the complicated preparations and multiple ingredients.

A traditional Lane Cake is a white cake, a type of sponge cake, made in layers. It has four layers separated by filling. Each layer is supposed to be made in a pie tins instead of cake pans, making each layer smaller. The layers each have different ingredients, which is what makes the cake unique – and more labor-intensive. For example, coconut, dried fruit, and nuts are common additions, but they are not included in the original recipe.

The outside usually has a white frosting made of water, sugar, and whipped egg white. It has a filling of butter, raisins, and whiskey. and each layer has different ingredients. For example, one layer may have pecans and coconut, the next layer almonds and raisins. The recipe has been modified many times through the years.

Well, anyway, I'll next make a Lane cake when I can load it up with so much shinny it makes people tight!  Here is the recipe for the carrot cake I made yesterday (and like Lane cake, it actually gets a little better after a day or two).

Carrot Cake Ingredients for a 2-layer cake:

for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil (you can use a very mild oil like canola or peanut, I even use a mild olive oil)
2 eggs
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
5 medium carrots, shredded
1 cup chopped pecans (in nice-size chunks - not too big, but not too fine!)
2 cake pans buttered with a circle of parchment paper in the bottom (like a Lane cake, I use pie tins sometimes)

8 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
16 oz cream cheese (2 blocks), cut into pieces
2 cups confectioner's sugar (once you're making the icing, taste and see if you want to use more)
2 c. chopped pecans (same size as in the cake batter)

Preheat the oven to 350*.

In the Kitchenaid, mix together the white and brown sugar plus the oil:

Next, mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Now, the vanilla.  Now add the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Don't mix too much, just until it comes together:

Here are the grated carrots I did in the Cuisinart:

Add those carrots plus the pecans, mix, and pour evenly in each of the cake pans or pie tins:

After 25-30 minutes, the cake should be done:

Once these are cool, make the icing.  In a clean Kitchenaid bowl, mix together the butter and cream cheese, then when that comes together well, the confectioners sugar.  It will take a while of mixing in the Kitchenaid for it to reach a good spreading consistency (probably about 6 or 8 minutes).  Add in the pecan pieces, mix again:

Flip the cake over onto a plate, spread the icing on top, then the next layer of cake, and spread the rest of the icing all over the top and sides:

I doubled this recipe and made a four-layer cake this time (which you only do if you're feeding a crowd or just feel like being a showoff):
It's sooo good!

Miss LV Hull's House Now

We went to Kosciusko to check on Miss L.V. Hull's house - she passed away in April of last year -  and we wanted to see how her house/yard/environment was doing now that she is gone.

I got in touch with someone at the Kosciusko paper that told me that really nothing was happening with her home one way or the other, but that they were hoping that some of her art might become an exhibit at one of the welcome centers.

We pulled up in front of the house (it's at 123 Allen Street, close to the cemetery), and it just felt as though all the bright colors that were Miss L.V. Hull have sort-of gone with her, which is really sad.  I wish I could find the pics that Av and I took seven or eight years ago when we first visited (those were with a non-digital camera so it would take a little looking to find them) - everything was so vibrant and cheerful!  It made you smile just to look at it all.

Here's how her home looks now: 

If you're wondering, it was all jumbled-up before too, but in a happy way:

She liked putting shoes on stakes, or having "shoe trees":

There was nothing she would not paint.

I didn't realize this before, but in 2001, Yaphet Smith (who was part of the Sundance Film Screenwriters Lab in 2002) shot his first documentary called "Dots and Dashes: The Artist L.V." which was of course about Miss L.V. Hull.  On the Sundance site, they explain: 
The film examines the use of imagination by artist and family friend L.V. Hull in her efforts to cope with the loss of her infant son. 
Everything I've read before said that she started painting in 1975 for no particular reason - I hadn't seen that it was due to her son's passing.  Bless her heart.

(((Yaphet: if you find this post via Google, please email me at: ginger AT deepfriedkudzu ---DOT--- com and let me know how I can get a copy of the documentary)))

In this picture, the spindle with the squiggles and the thing behind with dots and dashes (hence the documentary title) - that was really her "signature" way of painting things:

Tire towers:

Here at home, we have a shoe that she painted several years ago:

Here's a short film of her and her home:
Lots of other nice pics of Miss L.V.'s home and yard are here and H.C. Porter has a 37" x 60" acrylic silkscreen and prismacolor of her that is really great here.
I'll keep checking and see what is going to be done to preserve her art/environment.  Hopefully the city will stay on top of things - they had been promoting her home in their tourism literature when she was alive (hear that, Huntsville - embrace your art environments!!).  
When Loy Bowlin, the 'Original Rhinestone Cowboy' passed away, somehow things happened in McComb, Mississippi and they weren't able to keep things together - eventually his home was actually brought up to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Kohler, Wisconsin as an exhibit.  It's still there.  As much as the Kohler Foundation should be commended for helping, like with the Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden especially, surely we can do something to keep and maintain Miss L.V.'s cheerful art environment/home.  Hope so!