July 25, 2013
Ashe County artist Stephen Shoemaker and freelance writer Janet Pittard, co-author of his 2013 book “Stephen Shoemaker: The Paintings and Their Stories,” were interviewed recently by D.G. Martin on UNCTV’s “NC Now,” where they discussed their collaboration on the book, and a little Ashe County culture.
“We were very fortunate to be invited,” Shoemaker said of the interview. “We had a lot fun; D.G. is quite the host.”
“Janet deserves to be commended for her work on the book; she brought a lot of attention to Ashe County,” he said.
The 10-minute interview, which aired July 16, can be viewed online at http://video.unctv.org/video/2365046985/, with the Shoemaker and Pittard segment featured in the final third of the program.
A more comprehensive radio edition of the interview will air at 5 a.m., noon and 9 p.m. July 27 and 28 on WCHL 97 FM in Chapel Hill.
Published this year by McFarland Publishing of Jefferson, the 128-page “The Paintings and Their Stories” features 48 color images of Shoemaker’s work and the stories behind them. It is available online at mcfarlandpub.com.
Some interview highlights:
DG: Tell us about this train. It’s called the Virginia Creeper, but your paintings are mostly set in Ashe County.
Shoemaker: The Virginia Creeper arrived in Ashe County in 1915. It originated or branched off in Abingdon, Va.. It was a slow-moving train brought here to pull timber out of the region. I rode that train as a kid, and remember trying to touch the rocks by reaching out the window — it was that slow.
D.G.: A lot of the book is about you as a little boy, and your experiences…with the train. Is this something that’s haunted you all of your life?
Shoemaker: So much of this was drawn out, I think, by people being curious about…”why did you paint the trains?” And they said, “You know, you need to tell the story,”… and a lot of stories that I remember started coming forward.
D.G.: Is there any remnant of mountain life as you experienced it growing up in West Jefferson?
Shoemaker: Yes, there’s plenty of mountain life. One only has to drive a few miles out of town to see people that truly work hard to survive. It’s changed, and we’re losing some of those old ways, especially the language…with so many people coming and going in the county.
D.G.: Every place I go in N.C., I run into somebody who has a house somewhere up in Ashe County. I wonder, have the new-comers and summer-vacationers driven off the original mountain residents of the county?
Shoemaker: No, I think a lot of them have been accepted very well. West Jefferson is a unique little town.
Pittard: It has a very big arts community and a lot of people that have com in there have contributed a great deal to the arts and to promoting the arts. So I think it’s been a pretty good meld of newcomers and “old-comers.”