Two women share their adventures in creating new places for our minds through writing and painting. Lynn Lacher, author of “The Lick Skillet Coffee Club,” and Alabama oil painter Barbara Davis, the featured artist at Oxford Performing Arts Center, channel experiences that only a Southerner can fully appreciate.

Lacher’s adventure in writing the novel “The Lick Skillet Coffee Club” was in observing the coffee club in a drug store in small town Alabama, namely Oxford, and imagining the human emotions after their friend’s death. In 1984, there was no better observation platform than Butenschoen Drugs on Main Street, where a coffee club met regularly.

“I was new in town and wanted to meet people,” Lacher said. “I was offered a job in the drug store, gladly took it, and it was here that I met these fine men that gathered in the back of the store around a coffee pot. They solved world problems and talked of going fishing.”

The fact that there was a coffee club inspired her fictional novel. In it, she created a totally new plot with believable new characters who are deeply disturbed by the death of Silas, one of the club members.

Any death of a close friend is hard for those left behind. But this one is different. For the citizens of Lick Skillet, much more lies beneath the surface of this old man’s death.

The men, all fictional as Lacher emphasizes, are Danny Kendall, Clinton Presence, Jimmy Cleghorn and Silas Abercrombie, whose mysterious death weighs heavily on each of the men’s minds. The characters of Mike Purvis, the pharmacist, and preacher Andy Mitchell were also affected by Silas’ life and his actions.

Sometimes it’s best to look behind and solve problems before you can look forward and plan. It’s true with the coffee club members. This death precipitates emotional issues to be resolved among those who knew Silas well. There are still open wounds resulting from relationships that desperately need healing. And that’s where the element of forgiveness comes in.

“Although my story is intense, there’s also humor,” Lacher said. “However, I hope readers will hear my message of forgiveness within these pages. It is the only solution for the heartache felt by everyone involved.”

It took writing and re-writing the novel to get it to completion. “Writing a book is time-consuming, but rewarding,” Lacher said. “This is the time for new writers to get their book out. There are independent publishers available.”

The novel is now available through Ichthus Publications (www.ichthuspublications.com) or on Amazon. The date of a future book signing, when determined, will be given in this column.

Paintings throw new light on the subject

Watermelon slices. White roses. A shrimp boat. A grassy field of emerald green. With the artist’s application of light, these objects invite a second, longer look.

“Viewers tell me that they’d never looked at everyday things that way before,” said Barbara Davis, the featured artists at the Oxford Performing Arts Center Martin-Lett gallery. “There’s more than one meaning to each picture.”

Davis, a native of Montgomery, paints in oil. “Since I love to paint the effect of light, my subject matter is across the board. I center on landscapes, still life, portraits, people and animals. But I find my interest is always drawn to the skies,” Davis said.

Light is the persistent theme throughout her many oils in this exhibit. An example is the marsh scene “End of the Day,” which shows the glow of the afternoon sun.

A secondary theme is Southern lifestyles. Watermelon slices against a background of flowers has the name “Southern Summer.” The oil “Doing the Dishes” reminds me of china inherited from a great aunt. The oil painting of a shrimp boat came from a morning scene in Apalachicola. “Peaches in a Basket” recalls to me an early morning trip to the farmers market.

Davis has painted since she was 14. Her fine arts degree is from Auburn University. Her career, however, was in banking, while she pursued art as an avocation with the hope of eventually becoming a full-time artist.

In 2004, she began painting en plein air (a French term for painting outside), which opened new doors in meeting other artists and joining painting workshops.

“After years of studying and painting, my dream of working as a full-time artist has been realized,” Davis said. “I have family connections in Oxford and am glad to be here sharing my art.” Her maternal grandmother was Ruth Robinson Jones, her cousin is Prull Hill and her great aunt, Lucile Miller, once owned a hat shop, The Bonnet Box, at 1025 Noble St. in Anniston.

Davis has been featured in three magazines: American Art Collector, Southern Cast Iron and Alabama Bride.

It was a cold, rainy afternoon as I was viewing her show, but inside the gallery the world became a better place. Each painting seemed to have something to say and motivated pleasant thoughts.

The exhibit will be up through April 23. The next display will be student art.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.

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