Although Pablo Picasso praised my great-aunt Pamela for her artistic ability as a child, and during the 1920s she was recognized as one of the most famous artists in the world, today she is one of many obscure talents of the 20th century.
As a young girl growing up in New York, I can remember visiting her at her studio apartment on Lafayette Street in Manhattan. I can remember the gentleness in her voice and the delicate way she carried herself.
I can also remember a large easel next to her sofa with an oil painting of dark-haired girls playing in a garden. She spoke briefly about how it was a work in progress.
Maybe it was my aunt’s willingness to give others a glimpse into her private space that first attracted me to the work of Annie Laurie Dodd. Annie Laurie is a watercolorist here in Athens. She is also the widow of Lamar Dodd, an artistic icon in the Southeast often called the Father of Georgia Art.
I had the opportunity to meet Annie Laurie one morning a little over a year ago, and from that day I knew we were meant to be friends.
I found Annie Laurie to be open, sincere and to have a genuinely kind soul. As she showed me around her house, I knew our meeting had purpose. But it wasn’t until I walked into her kitchen and looked through the window onto the sun porch that I realized what it was.
On a large, white drawing table, she had a small watercolor of red roses. A simple stem of similar flowers was in a jar next to it.
“Did you paint that?” I asked.
It turns out that Annie Laurie, whose art hangs on the walls of her home beside pieces by her late husband, has been an artist all her life. Her mother, Laura, loved flowers and always kept them sitting about in small vases. Annie Laurie believes she gets her love of flowers from her mother.
I can relate to that.
Although Annie Laurie has been painting flowers since she was 8, she never showed anything publicly until she met Mr. Dodd. Through his encouragement, she would periodically show her work at church and local art venues. She has not shown her work publicly since Mr. Dodd passed away in 1996. She is now 81.
The roses on the table that morning turned out to be Knockout roses from her front yard. Annie Laurie said she’s always painted from real flowers and enjoys those from her own garden as much as anywhere.
As I drove away, I couldn’t help but think about the genuine approach Annie Laurie takes with her art. It is an expression of a lifelong love, and I want to help make it last.
Over the past year, Ladies’ Garden Club has developed The Southern Garden Series into a fundraiser that highlights Annie Laurie’s work. The project includes the sale of 125 sets of limited edition giclee prints depicting the four seasons of a Southern garden. Annie Laurie created the iris, rose, sasanqua and daffodil in soft yet striking colors that truly capture the beauty and elegance of our Southern gardens.
The project also celebrates the club’s 125th anniversary as the first formal garden club in America. Proceeds will benefit the home of the national garden club movement, Founders Memorial Garden on the University of Georgia campus; the Lyndon House Arts Center, and The State Botanical Garden of Georgia.
Graciously, the University of Georgia, through the College of Environment & Design, has endorsed the series; Southeastern Color Lithographers has printed the giclees, and Allan Armitage, professor emeritus of horticulture at UGA and one of the South’s leading experts in the plant field, has shared his expertise with botanical names. Athens First Bank & Trust is the presenting sponsor, and Trumps Catering the official caterer.
Fourteen members of Ladies’ Garden Club have met nearly every week for the past year to bring this project together.
It has been an amazing journey already.
The fundraiser officially opens Nov. 26 with a reception at The State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Subsequent receptions will take place annually until the 125th anniversary of Ladies’ Garden Club in 2016 at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, Founders Memorial Garden, Lyndon House Arts Center and the Georgia Museum of Art.
Although often overlooked and lost to history, both gardens and art are irreplaceable parts of life.
To learn more about The Southern Garden Series, please visit the website http://www.theladiesgardenclub.org.
Rachel Tribble is a writer living in Athens with her husband and two sons. Her columns appear monthly in the Athens Banner-Herald.