By J. Everett
Two artists pay tribute to the vanishing delta at Gallery Fifty Six in October as they stir memories of lazy drives down dusty roads or meandering walks across muddy fields. The flat, expansive Mississippi River Valley Delta begins at our own Peabody Hotel and ends on Bourbon Street, shaping the lives of the people who live along the mighty river and beyond. It’s a part of all of us in the Memphis area, whether we grew up on one of its fertile farms or in one of the cities it birthed.
Emery Franklin grew up in south Memphis. His designs can be seen in the Black Heritage Calendar annually and as an official print of the Million Man, Million Woman, Million Youth March. His oil paintings invoke the mood and feel of the delta. These people and places are real to us, even though many have long since turned to dust. Sensual and somewhat surreal, Emery’s paintings are deeply Southern, from the sharecropper harvesting real money, to the elegant woman playing violin in the cotton fields.
Paul Clarke is a well-known Memphis photographer whose giclees on canvas are familiar to many of us. His photographs capture deserted, decaying delta icons, before they disappear forever. The once bustling bright yellow train station in Webb still stands, boarded, shut, and pale. An empty, decaying grocery store becomes what Clarke calls a “classic delta roadside temple,” its Coca-Cola sign faded to dim.
The Vanishing Delta will bring back memories you thought were lost forever. Everyone is invited to an artists’ reception on Friday, October 1, from 5-8pm at Gallery Fifty Six, 2256 Central Avenue. For more information call (901) 276-1251 or go online to galleryfiftysix.com.
By J. Everett