PAINTING MEMORIES: Porter recreates images from the past

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Phoebe Porter needs only to close her eyes and she’s back in yesteryear.

Porter is not alone in the ability to visualize the past but she is among the few who have the desire and talent to capture on canvas those images of times past.

Porter’s Troy home is her studio. Each room is a gallery. Every painting is a memory.

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“I paint my memories,” she said. “And, I paint them my way – the way I remember them. Not with a lot of detail. Just the way I feel them.”

Porter, laughingly, said when she paints, she puts on music, usually jazz, and goes with the flow.

She paints in two mediums – watercolors and oils. She prefers watercolor to oil but that’s not evident in her work. Her feelings come through as easily in the solidity of the oils as they do in the fluid, almost dreamy watercolor paintings.

But, it’s an oil painting that Porter now has on the easel. It’s a painting of her childhood memory of a roadside tomato stand near the old home place.

“I’m a tomato girl,” Porter said, with a smile. “I love tomatoes. There’s nothing I would rather have than a soggy tomato sandwich with lots of mayonnaise. I remember so vividly those roadside stands with all those tomatoes, those red, red tomatoes – the kind with an acid taste. The picture that I’m painting is of those memories, those generations, those feelings. My history. My life.”

The canvas is much smaller than most of Porter’s paintings. It has to be. Porter is planning to submit the painting in the Johnson Center for the Arts upcoming juried art exhibited titled, “The Art of Being Southern.” The exhibit is open to artists in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida and carries with it a Best of Show award of $3,500 and other cash prizes.

But Porter’s is not entering in hopes of winning a prize. She’s taking the opportunity to go on a sentimental journey – on a journey back to the places of her heart.

“I don’t often do small pieces but, to submit a piece for ‘The Art of Being Southern,’ it can be no larger than 14×14 inches, so that’s not easy for me,” Porter said. “But I love to paint and I’m enjoying doing this painting. It brings back so many good memories.”

And, that’s the idea behind “The Art of Being Southern,” said Wiley White, JCA exhibitions coordinator. “Memories and more.”

The Art of Being Southern is, according to the JCA, practiced when people appreciate the geometry and aroma of a new plowed field, the colors of flowers and the varied colors of the faces of friends. The Art of Being Southern is the contemporary movement of the dance and the rhythmic twang of bluegrass, the emotion of spirituals backed by the power of the symphony.

The Art of Being Southern is the earthy colors of fresh greens, ripe tomatoes and candied yams, the portraits of ancestors, the satisfying tastes of ice-cold sweet tea and aged Tennessee bourbon.

Or the works of original art created by Southern artists – artists like Phoebe Porter, a tomato girl who paints what she remembers …and what she feels.