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Arkansas Traveler
Arkansas Traveler
Oil on Canvas
66" x 80"

Like so many of my titles, I titled this painting after a song I learned on the banjo. "Arkansas Traveler" has a lot of meaning for me. My in-laws are from Arkansas, so I play this song often for my wife, which conjures fond memories of her parents. The American antebellum painter William Sidney Mount was the first person to write down in standard notation this song. Like me, he was also a musician (a fiddler). He was an inventor, too. His most notable invention was a special fiddle that had a lot of volume, perfect for playing in large crowds and dances of the time, which he called "The Cradle of Harmony." I depict it in the lower left corner of my painting.

My imagery is from the children's "bumble bee" version of "Arkansas Traveler" and the vaudeville version as performed by the late, great Pete Seeger, a 1950s/1960s folk revivalist musician and political/environmental activist. I included his long-necked banjo in my painting with its inscription on the banjo head: "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender." I finished this painting in 2019, in time to commemorate Pete Seeger's birth one hundred years ago.

Throughout this website I have indicated my dual identity as a painter and musician, but in this painting I directly refer to it: that's me holding Peter Seeger's long-necked banjo while simultaneously brandishing paint brushes. There are others who have had the same status, and this painting is a tribute to them: William Sidney Mount, Thomas Hart Benton, and especially Art Rosenbaum are three that have had the most influence on my work.

Most importantly this painting is an expression of love for my wonderful wife Dr. Jennifer Keith, in memory of her parents Mr. R. Kent Keith and Mrs. Helene Keith.