Twenty plus years ago, I fell into the world of Flannery O'Connor through a back door marked ART. What an amazing journey it has been - unlike any of the other art doors I have opened. My contributions to the O'Connor world are eleven paintings based on her short stories and cards using some of those images as well as a poster of "That Gentleman" for an O'Connor conference at Georgia College in 1994.
Recently two people contacted me within twenty-four hours to ask if I had any more cards. Those requests are the impetus to return to O'Connor world and to publish more cards and this blog. I will write about each of the paintings and share some of my experiences along the way. If you want to buy the notecards, click on any image and it will take you to my web page and an e-mail address for ordering.
What is your favorite story? How did you fall into O'Connor World?
A few years before, I had heard a sermon with a reference to O'Connor's story "Revelation" and discovered that Flannery was not a man! I bought the book of short stories, read the first one she wrote and put the book back on the shelf. On this fateful day, however, I opened the book in the middle and read the story of baptism and an image of a young preacher standing in a muddy Georgia river came to me immediately. I grabbed a tear out ad from a magazine and sketched it out. What excitement! I kept reading and sketching with her wonderful descriptions bringing images to me quickly. Then I started calling people who might know something about her. The first person I talked to was trying to finish a novel and had just taken a new job and said he didn't have time to talk with me on his precious Saturday morning. Thirty minutes later he said good-bye. He told me people either loved O'C or hated her and he obviously loved.
After painting five or six of these, I decided I should check with the art venue to see if it would be okay to exhibit the O'Connor work and not abstracts. It was not okay. By spring the abstract exhibit was over; I'd painted ten of O'Connor's stories and didn't know what to do with them.
At a conference at Montreat NC that spring I met Murphy Davis of Atlanta. She told of going to Milledgeville every month to take family members to see their loved ones who were in the women's prison there. "Oh, Milledgeville - that's where Flannery O'Connor lived," I replied. Then I told her about my paintings; she asked me to send her some slides so she could show them to her friend, Mary Barbara Tate, who had known Flannery and had taught English at the college. Mary Barbara walked them across the street to the arts council office; the man there called me immediately and offered me an exhibit at the Milledgeville library the very next month. The O'Connor ART door was blown open.