Authors of Hemingway’s era come to life in Dickinson art cottage
Writer Ernest Hemingway often referred to his time in 1920s Paris as something that stayed with him the rest of his life, calling Paris a “moveable feast.”
So, it made sense to Dickinson art teacher Sue Bown to dedicate a room in one of the cottages on her property to honor the famous author.
Bown took a difficult situation — Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath — and created the room.
“My art studio, home and surrounding buildings were severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey, but I saw light at the end of the tunnel and moved on,” she said.
During the restoration period, Bown decided to reconfigure a three-room cottage and turn one of the rooms into a space for writers. Décor would consist of portraits of famous authors painted by her 20 art students.
“Some of them had never painted a portrait, but they were eager to try,” she said. “I told them to pick an author who was alive during the height of Hemingway’s career, and the fun began.”
The wall in the Hemingway Room is now covered with portraits of such authors as Tennessee Williams, James Joyce, John Steinbeck and Gertrude Stein, along with Hemingway’s six-toed cat, all painted with a vintage vibe — some in sepia tones — recapturing the era.
Artist Sandy Kelley-Jones has been studying with Bown for more than seven years, but when she first started, she was a novice.
“I did a self-portrait during my first lesson,” Kelley-Jones said. “It wasn’t great, but you could have picked me out of a lineup.”
Today, Kelley-Jones rarely misses class, and her portraits on the wall of Eudora Welty and Daphne du Maurier exhibit her talent.
“I chose du Maurier because she wrote one of my favorite books, ‘Rebecca,’ an elegant novel that I read when I was young,” Kelley-Jones said. “I had read short stories by Welty and appreciated her ability to capture the plights of Southern families.”
Ilonka du Plessis is a new student who has only been taking lessons for a year, yet her portrait of André P. Brink is stunning.
“I chose this author to introduce a glimpse of my rich, South African culture to my fellow art friends, and in doing so, I feel like I can stay true and connected to my own heritage,” said du Plessis, who finished the portrait in four sessions.
Crystal Price chose F. Scott Fitzgerald because he looked interesting, she said.
“I knew he wrote ‘The Great Gatsby,’ but didn’t know much about him,” Price said. “I found his photo on the internet and knew I wanted to paint him.”
Teresa Devereux, a three-year art student, chose Gertrude Stein because she liked her face, she said.
“Hers was not a plain, straight face; there were a lot of shadows, so I thought she would be a good one to paint,” Devereux said. “Plus, she was a pioneer of the women’s movement way back then. She was quite a character.”
The only portrait with color was painted by Diane Magliolo, who has been taking art for three years.
“I chose Hilda Reid, an English novelist who wrote historical fiction, because I like that genre,” Magliolo said.
Sandra Brezina decided on Truman Capote, mainly because of his beautifully chiseled face when he was young, she said.
“His appearance seemed to be continually morphing, further enhanced by his unique wardrobe,” Brezina said. “Plus, he was an immensely talented writer and seemed to lead an exciting life.”
Cathy Emmitte has seen the movie “Gone with the Wind” numerous times, and she’s read the book, so Margaret Mitchell was one of her choices. Her other two portraits were of John Steinbeck and Tennessee Williams.
“I read ‘East of Eden’ and ‘Grapes of Wrath’ by Steinbeck and saw ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Williams, so I chose authors I was familiar with,” Emmitte said.
Carol Outlaw-Wagner had read many of Agatha Christie’s books and always admired her, so hers was an easy choice, she said.
“I looked at many photos of her, but her eyes were so dark, so I had to take artistic license to fix that, and it took me about 12 hours to complete it,” Outlaw-Wagner said.
Hemingway had a fascination with his six-toed cats, so it was only fitting that Carol Stelling add that to the collection, she said.
“It was a natural for me since I’m in the habit of doing small portraits of dogs and cats for my new neighbors where I live,” Stelling said.
Not much space is left on the wall of writers, but Bown will make room, because on the drawing board are Lillian Hellman, Harper Lee, Ezra Pound and Toni Morrison.
“We’ll keep adding until all four walls are full, then we’ll add some shelving,” Bown said.
Nov. 1 is National Authors Day.