Dempsey Essick is a self taught, self expressed realist watercolor artist. He is known as the Hummingbird Bird Artist; not only for the hummingbirds he paints but for the hidden hummingbirds he hides in his paintings.
For years I have enjoyed visiting Old Salem. I like to soak up the atmosphere of the old buildings and the people dressed as they were in colonial times. I can imagine what it was like in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. When I decided to do a painting in tribute to the old Moravian village I wanted to do something different, something that was not just a duplicate of what others had done.
The more I looked around the village the more I was drawn to Salt Street and the log house where John Henry Boner, the poet was born. It was when I noticed the community flowerbeds across the street from Boner’s house and saw references to flowers grown there in his poetry that I decided on the still life with flowers.
I was determined that the flowers would be authentic varieties that were grown in Salem when Boner lived in the house and, thanks to the meticulous record keeping by early Moravians, I was able to confirm that primrose, Johnny-jump-ups, pansies and narcissus all were grown there in the late eighteen hundreds.
Most of you remember the series of paintings I did a few years back which involved one of Aunt Sallie Parnell’s hand woven rugs and homes of Alice DeLapp and Irena McCormick. Well, as it happened each of those special ladies gave me an old antique coffee can and I decided to use those cans and one terracotta flower pot I found under the Boner back porch, to hold the flowers for “Salem Bouquet”.
In looking around for a setting I found that the morning sun was very strong across the front of the old Boner smokehouse which is behind the dwelling. It was in the entrance to the smokehouse that I placed the flowers as you see them. My aim was to have the coffee cans lend an informal look as well as a color accent along with the flower blossoms. The whole arrangement is standing out in contrast against the weathered grey logs and dun colored foundation stones.
When a group of farseeing movers and shakers got together in Winston-Salem just after the second World War to form the Old Salem Restoration Committee most people paid very little attention. Today, after untold hours of volunteer work, research, fund raining, planning and rezoning, the present restored village is a flower in the lapel of Winston-Salem and indeed the whole state. “Salem Bouquet” is my thank you to all those who made Old Salem possible in the beginning and continue to make it possible today.