March 27, 2014

WILLIAMS: Finding a love for the arts


---- — Recently, I have gotten into art. Well, not real, museum-quality art. I will never be an art expert and I’ll certainly never be able to afford to be a collector on that level. Art snobs will always hold me in contempt for my ignorance, I’m sure, but I needed something to put my stamp of individuality on my house, the way dolls and teapots had for Mom. (I did keep several of the prettiest ones of each, so she is still here in a way).

This all began because of writing. (Doing research for a book is also how I first discovered my passion for NASCAR, and Ireland, and the Atchafalaya Basin, and wild horses). In my latest novel, my main character bought a Creole Townhouse in the French Quarter of New Orleans and I followed him to art galleries and upscale antique stores as he furnished it. (Unlike me, he could afford to purchase anything that struck his fancy and oh, he bought some of the most wonderful things!)

Along the way, I became attracted to an artist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It would be fascinating to know why a certain artistic style reaches out and grabs one person with such power while the next one is moved by something entirely different. Does the art we love say something profound about our personality, do you suppose? There’s an idea for someone’s master’s thesis, if it hasn’t already been done.

Bouguereau specialized in both biblical scenes and portraits. It was the portraits that I was drawn to. His original paintings sell for millions of dollars but I bought a print of one of his young girls, “Petite Mendiante,” 1880. It was still rather too rich for my blood but I did it anyway.

My friends are startled by my new incarnation.

“You are the last person in the world I’d have ever imagined would become an art enthusiast,” one of them told me. “It’s sort of like Willie Nelson breaking out in opera.”

“You don’t have an artistic bone in your body,” another one declared.

And that is absolutely true. I’ve never had a flair for style. The girls used to tease me about being “Polyester Vic.”(Now that I’ve retired, I’ve switched to knit). I never even learned to tie a bow.

And when it comes to interior design, I place items in the most obvious places and match my colors. I look at beautiful rooms in Southern Living and Martha Stewart and think, “Wow, I’d would never have put that color combination together or put that piece of furniture in that location.”

Still, I’ve received so much pleasure poring over the pictures at and other sites to discover what gives me joy and I suppose that is what fiction and art and music is all about, giving joy. There is really no practical reason for any of it to exist otherwise.

My mother taught me to read when I was very young. I had my first library card when I was 3.

I’ve always been a voracious consumer of words. In the same way, having access to music has always been a critical necessity in my life whether in the form of records, cds, concerts, bars featuring live band or jukeboxes.

By contrast, art is new. I’ve bought six pictures (and that will be it for a while – I don’t want to be like Mom and her thousand dolls). I’ve deliberated over mats and frames. I’ve agonized over which walls would show them to their best advantage.

My choices might not please anyone else but whenever I go into a room where one of them is hanging, I simply stand for a while to admire them.

Fresh, new love can surprise you by entering your life no matter what age you are.

Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at