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NAVIGATING PENTIMENTO:
Revelations along the Southern Literary Trail

by William Gantt, Director
The Southern Literary Trail

Maralyn Wilson, a gifted Birmingham painter and sculptor, works with encaustic techniques to create haunting and memorable portraits. The artistic process for an encaustic work is a demanding one. Maralyn carefully applies and manipulates layers of wax, which she enhances with pigments, over an image on canvas. For a series of portraits, Maralyn has chosen great American writers.

Maralyn transfers a photograph of an author to canvas. She coats the canvas with the encaustic mixture. She uses her artistic talents to adjust the coating to capture the most intriguing facial feature of her subject. For writers, that feature is inevitably a look of mystery. "The luminosity of the many layers creates an atmosphere of mysterious times," observes Maralyn. "The paintings become interpretations of a place or experience rather than an explicit depiction of reality."

Lillian Hellman is one of Maralyn's portrait subjects. In contrast to the coatings that Maralyn adds for her portraits, Hellman peeled away the layers of her life to write a memoir she entitled Pentimento. Hellman undertook "to see what was there for me once, what is there for me now." The writer said that pentimento describes the fading of colors on an artist's work over time. As the colors fade away, the artist's original sketches on the canvas emerge.

Travels along the Southern Literary Trail will enhance a visitor's understanding of the region's classic writers and their places in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. "Fiction depends for its life on place," wrote Eudora Welty. "Location is the crossroads of Wynell Ganttcircumstances." Whether the canvas of a southern writer's work is richly painted or peeled away to its origins, the importance of place in Southern Literature is never eliminated. It is never overshadowed.

The organizers of the Southern Literary Trail have mapped the destinations that will enable guests to create their own interpretations - their own pigments and layers - of legendary writing from the South. But, beware. This region is full of enticing detours. If a visitor to the Trail so chooses, he or she can peel away the layers to uncover the writer's original lines and navigate the crossroads of pentimento. Maralyn Wilson has generously shared her portraits to set the tone of mystery for a proper journey.

Maralyn Wilson has received national awards for her artwork and served as chairperson for Birmingham's Festival of the Arts. Maralyn is a graduate of Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans.

William Gantt, an attorney in Birmingham, is Alabama's project director for the Southern Literary Trail. He dedicates his work for the Trail to the memory of his mother Wynell Gantt, a teacher who shared her love of literature with decades of Demopolis High School students.
  

  Lillian Hellman
Lillian Hellman
Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor
Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
 
           
  Carson McCullers
Carson McCullers
Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell
Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
William Faulkner
William Faulkner