Local art patrons honor Woodie Long

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 17, 2010

The LAAC’s new facility on East Three Notch was filled with the spirit of Woodrow Wilson Long, best known simply as “Woodie,” in a reception held there last night.

“He would love this,” Woodie’s son, Rick Long, said. “First of all, the music was deep in him,” Long said, referring to the “Friends of Woodie,” Walter Moore, Mike Jones, Gordon Jones and Judith Moore, who played during the reception.

The elder Long was the house painter turned folk artist whose work gained national acclaim.

Born in Plant City, Fla., Long and his wife, Dot, moved to Andalusia in the early 1980s. He discovered his artistic talent in 1988 while his wife was at an art class, Kathy Kemp wrote in Revelations, Alabama’s Visionary Folk Artists.

Long told Kemp that while his wife was in class, he picked up some of her art supplies and started painting.

“I knew they was good. And it scared me to death,” he told Kemp of his first three paintings.

Woodie succumbed to cancer last fall.

The show currently on display at the LAAC includes some of those early pieces. While the later pieces are very different, his signature fluid strokes are evidenced even in the early work.

While Woodie was fully confident in his art, he would have loved the appreciation shown by those who showed up to see the show, Rick Long said.

“Everybody likes to be reminded that they’re appreciated,” Woodie’s son said.

Walking through the exhibit, Rick chose a painting of Noah’s Ark as one of his favorites.

“He might have done a series of two or three of these, but you don’t see this often, which is probably one reason I picked it,” he said. “It’s colorful and the animals are a little abstract, but you know immediately what it is.”

It was common for his father to do a series on one theme and quickly move on, he said.

“He did the Tour de France, he did a few with a Tiger Woods theme, but not many,” he said, adding that children with kites was his most repeated image.

The show also includes a small piece Woodie’s wife, Dot Long, did of Woodie repairing a chair.

“I really didn’t expect to see it here,” she said, explaining, “Woodie was always rescuing chairs. He’d bring them home and start to fix them.”

The chairs were rarely healed, she said, but Woodie wouldn’t throw them away. After the couple moved to Grayton Beach, Fla., where he had a gallery, Dot said she’d come home and clean out some of the things her husband “collected.”

“He would comment that it looked good,” she smiled. “I don’t think he realized what I was doing.”

Georgine Clarke, visual arts program manager at the Alabama State Council on the Arts, was among the guests Friday.

“First of all, it’s colorful and there’s a touch of whimsy there,” she said of Woodie’s art. “But it’s much deeper than that.

“Each piece communicates to people what is in your soul,” she said.

Clarke said she has a friend who has a collection of Woodie’s work.

“Each morning, she said, the first things she sees when she wakes up are his work,” Clarke said. “What a wonderful way to wake up.”

Both Clarke and Rick Long praised the LAAC’s new facility.

“We are very well aware (at the state Council on the Arts) of the work they are doing here,” Clarke said. “We’re real proud of their classes and their outreach in the community. It’s really appropriate for them to honor Woodie here.”

Long said the LAAC’s location has much more of a gallery feel.

“The new space is awesome,” he said.

Dot Long said Woodie’s gallery is closed while she completes the task of inventorying his work for estate purposes.

“Eventually, it will reopen,” she said.

The Tribute to Woodie will remain on display at the LAAC, which is open weekday afternoons.

Gordon Jones and Judith Moore, along with Walter Moore and Mike Jones, provided music.| Michele Gerlach/ Star-News