A New Art Project to Commemorate the Davis Homeplace

My Grandmother and Grandfather Davis (where I get my middle name.) played a significant role in my early childhood. I spent many Sundays exploring the woods around the farm near Normandy, Tennessee, building forts in the hayloft, damming up the creek, climbing trees, and gathering walnuts. Then there were the summer work days, where my brother, Perry, and I earned a dollar a day pulling weeds, digging potatoes, shoveling hay, and holding down sheep while one of the workers cut off his balls. My father taught me to shoot a rifle and shotgun on the farm and eventually to hunt rabbits, squirrels, dove and quails.

The old farmhouse had a very romantic history, and we have pictures of its evolution from a small cottage to a large, two story home with three large fireplaces where we spent winter evenings roasting potatoes and popping corn. The place, as I first remember it, had no running water and no indoor toilet. They bathed in a bowl with water heated on a wood stove. As I grew up I watched this place evolve, ultimately being equipped with a large water tank filled from a well and rainwater and a new bathroom.

The house was full of fascinating places and stuff. There was the upstairs closet that was stacked with old mail, cards and letters and strange stamps dating back many years. It was a magical place to be. There was the clock above the fireplace where I first learned to tell time, which housed a collection of artifacts. That clock now sits on my own mantle above the fireplace and I enjoy it every single day.

There was the horrible day when Grandaddy fell in the back yard and killed himself with a 12 gauge shotgun. Bits of his flesh hung from electrical wires above where he died for years until finally the wind and rain washed them away.

When Jimbo and Kris were growing up, they had their own experience of the farm. Granddaddy was no longer there. Grandmother was getting pretty old, and she was hard of hearing. Nevertheless, Kris and she had a very special relationship that I could never understand. They just liked being together even though there was little or no verbal communication between them. Oftentimes in the evenings Kris would go and just sit with her for hours while the rest of us were off somewhere else.

The house no longer exists. In 1996 we sold the property and soon after the house was razed to make way for numerous new homes. As it was being razed, Kris made several special trips to the old farm to collect odds and ends like stones from the fireplace and flowers. All of us transplanted irises and other flowers to our various homes. In a conversation about this with Kris an interesting idea came upon me. We should collect some wood from the house and I would use it as the foundation for a series of paintings of the farm and family. I would then pass these paintings on as a keepsake for relatives so that they would always have a piece of their forefathers home.

I have the wood and photographs on which the paintings will be based. I am just about ready to begin the paintings. The following are some of the scenes I have selected.

Grand Daddy (James Onman) and Grand Mother(Mattie Jenkins) Davis in front of the old homeplace in its prime.

Grandmother Davis on the front porch steps


The Davis Homeplace in its last years.


Looking South


The Barn in its final days. Creek in foreground