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Inspiration and Memories from Eastern Arkansas

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Downtown Weiner Arkansas

Welcome to the first of a series (hopefully) of posts presenting different perspectives of one of Daniel’s recent paintings. This inaugural post is a family collaboration! The painting discussed is “Downtown Weiner” and the perspectives are from Daniel and my dad, Thomas Darter, who grew up in nearby Fisher, AR. Their writings give insight into the process and inspiration for the painting, and a historical glimpse of rice country life.  If you enjoy the post, please let us know! If you like the painting, you can see it on display until April 27th at Cantrell Gallery in Little Rock, AR.


 Daniel writes about painting “Downtown Weiner”

We sometimes travel in the “northern Arkansas Delta” because my father-in-law is from that area.  He grew up on a rice farm in Fisher.  Any time we drive through Weiner, I am amazed at the size of the grain elevator complex there.  When I lived in Delaware I knew a guy who was the mechanic/repair person for a much smaller grain elevator company.  Even so, being that part of the company seemed like a huge undertaking.  The processes seemed exceedingly complex to me.  So…driving by the Weiner facility is always visually jolting.

Mostly it is because of the size of the thing.  You cannot drive by without noting the size.  And…it is mostly concrete.  It’s one of the biggest concrete structures that I’ve ever seen.  Maybe in Kansas or Nebraska I’ve seen larger grain elevators.  But for a visually oriented person such as myself…Weiner is a place that stands out in my mind.

So, when I did the painting, my first aim was to convey the size of the grain elevators with the town.  Granted, you can’t see the whole town but there is a slice of the downtown part of Weiner.  I realize that I might be interested in a grain elevator but most people who buy paintings probably aren’t.  So, I wanted to make a painting that showed a summer scene, hinting at the heat of the season, and in turn, visually said something about the amount of heat that needs to be controlled in a complex like the grain elevator.

As the years have moved on, I have become more and more attuned to indicating the weather conditions in whatever scene I’m working on.  I try to use the weather to allow me the freedom to use a more loose, impressionistic technique as opposed to the more detailed, realistic approach I use to render the cotton gins, barns or whatever structures might be in the painting.  By blending these two techniques, I believe I produce a more “historically” accurate painting that is more attractive to a person who sees these structures from a highway as one drives by.  That way, you don’t have to be conversant with ginning or grain storage to enjoy the painting.


Tom writes about life in “Downtown Weiner”

This scene of downtown Weiner was a pleasant surprise to me when I first saw it in the Cantrell Gallery.

Do you see what I see?

I see a railroad of the Cotton Belt line. I see a railroad that brought tons of fertilizer to the warehouses on the SW side of town. The same fertilizer, in paper sacks of #100, of ammonium nitrate we used on our rice SE of Fisher. By hand we loaded handcarts and sack by sack stacked these sacks onto our flatbed Ford truck. I was so relieved when the producers lowered the weight of those sacks to #80.

I see a railroad that shipped boxcars of yellow clay bricks used to build the “new” Weiner Elementary School in the early ”˜50s. The FFA boys, led by Kenneth Keller, formed a line that offloaded those blocks from the boxcars to trucks and then to the building site. I pulled a lower abdomen muscle and sat out part of the job.

I see the site of the Bank of Weiner. The bank where Dad and I bumped into Mr. Claypool the owner of the Bluff City Buick of Memphis. I was impressed that he was dressed in khakis just like Dad was.

I see the bank site where one could take a nickel and operate the red Coke machine for a 6 oz bottle of real Coke. The machine was in the Winters Ins office.

I see the bank where a small redheaded boy was accepted because he was a son of T. W. Darter.

I see the former site, on the west side of the tracks, of the John Deere dealership. The dealership annually invited the public, including the FFA boys, to a see the new line of our favorite tractors. We had model Ds.

Then we could join the public in the Victory Theatre to view a JD movie of all their lines and implements. This was my first hands-on event with a hotdog lunch.

I see a Cotton Belt railroad with passenger, at that time, and freight trains. One late freight engineer would dim his lights for us as we neared Waldenburg on our way home to Fisher from away games of basketball.
I hope you see a little of what I see.


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