Sarah West: Honoring Local History

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Print of Vesper to be at local MEND auction

After the storm, the winds quieted and the light turned to sunset hues of melon and lavender. The fresh scent of twisted pine, snapped, torn and bent, permeated the air. Pink insulation spun round like cotton candy clinging to fence posts and barbed wire, and shredded leaves plastered homes like Times Square confetti remnants after a rainy new year’s eve. Homes built by generations past were wiped clean. Towering trees dragged through rooftops. Soil turned over by nature’s unrelenting bulldozer. Some of us emerged visually untouched. Our clothes were still clean. We exited our homes through the front doors. Others climbed through the rubble of their closets and roof tops in search of loved ones. 

I mourned the loss of the deep forest long before the storm. Each day I watched as trucks loaded with timber set out for the mill, leaving vast swaths of acreage barren. Lumpy hills of turned soil, with only the greening sprigs of saplings remained. I watched seasons change as I mourned the loss of another forest, I meditated and painted unaware of the future calamity that would befall our region. With fury, mother nature took more than wooded acres. In the aftermath, losses were assessed, most of which can never be replaced. One life lost was one too many; then came the final count, twenty three. In prayer, we count our blessings, but blessings sometimes cause us to question. In faith, we accept that a higher power must know the reason for each name written on crosses. Communities far and near, organizations, and countless individuals came to the aid of those in need. Recovery continues for so many; and in this regard, an event that scarred our lives and landscape is a living record stitching together present and past history. In this way, today marks tomorrow’s history.

Upcoming events in Smiths Station, host milestone occasions defined by every person who has called our east central Alabama community home. These ALABAMA 200 endorsed events are dedicated to “commemorating the stories of our people, places and path to statehood.” Events include the Opening of the Historic Jones Store Museum on July 13th, 2019, hosted by the Smiths Station Historical Commission; and in collaboration with the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, A Center for Cultural Arts, the Smiths Station City Hall Exhibit Galleries present Vesper, a debut exhibition, featuring the narrative painting which serves as a somber reflection of Lee County, as well as the ongoing conservation and recovery work of the Alabama Forestry Commission. This debut exhibition respectively provides acknowledgement to the traditions and pastimes that define our shared heritage, while hosting initial preview to works that will be part of the Civility paintings, Alabama State Capitol Exhibition, as part of the ALABAMA 200 bicentennial finale, in Montgomery this December.                                                                                           

*Exhibit and Historic Jones Store Museum events are free, family friendly and open to the public

As part of the county-wide continued storm recovery effort, a signed limited edition print of Vesper will be part of the upcoming MEND auction, August 13th at the Jule Collins Smith Museum, Auburn, AL.