After spending the night in Perry, Florida at the "world famous" Econo Lodge (one of the best I've stayed at to date), I decided to venture up north into Alabama to see a special little museum. Not long after I left DC and started my road trip I got an e-mail from my friend Cory that said, "Artist Butch Anthony has a shop called Museum of Wonder in Seale, Alabama." That was pretty direct and to the point, and after Googling the museum I knew it was something that I should probably check out. Today was the day. I e-mailed Butch to see when the museum was open and he replied, "All day, any time." Perfect.
After a four to five hour drive through a bunch of farmland and a much needed Starbucks break in Columbus, I punched in the museum's address in my GPS and headed into the back woods, a wide spot in the road. After quite a long drive down a dirt driveway, I came upon some signs that said, "Museum this way." A couple of border collies herded me as I slowly drove up the driveway. When I parked and got out of my car I was greeted by a bare chested, skinny guy in overalls. After our introductions he asked, "Where ya from?" in a slooow southern drawl.
"DC," I said.
"Oh, do ya know Cynthia Connolly?"
"You do? Really? She and I used to see each other about ten years ago."
"Small world," I thought to myself. Small, small world.
Butch gave me a tour of his most recent artwork in his house. He finds old photographs and paintings at garage sales and paints skeletons over them — dark and creepy, just the way I like my art.
We then headed over to the museum where he unlocked the padlocked door, disappeared inside, and started his ritual of turning on the lights. I was first greeted by a table full of animal skulls, and...well it's impossible to explain everything. My photos should give you a taste of what you'll see at the museum, a hodgepodge of creations that Butch started when he was 14 years old. As I walked around the museum, basically a shed in his backyard, I sweated, giggled, and snapped away with my camera. After a while I met Butch outside where he was sawing the headboard of a bed apart. "I found it on the side of the road...might make a fish out of it." All of his work comes from found objects and much of it is for sale on his Etsy page.
Butch asked me where I was headed next and I said I wasn't sure. "If I was you I'd head back to Florida to check out Apalachicola. I've got a friend who has ten acres of land down there. He's got a guest house, cottage type place that he rents out. You'll get all sorts of good pictures down there....oyster fisherman, shrimp fisherman, worm grubbers...." It was starting to sound like a good photo opportunity for me, so after he made a phone call to his friend Frank, I was headed back south to Florida, another four to five hour drive, basically going back to where I started in the morning.
As the day went on I started to get pretty sleepy, so I called Frank and asked him if I could visit him tomorrow. "Oh sure, come by in the afternoon then." Of course I'm abbreviating our conversation because Frank could talk your ear off if you gave him a chance. So I called it a night in Panama City, a town I never want to go back to. It's dirty and has basically no redeeming qualities.
The next day, after killing some time at the local Starbucks in Panama City (where I overheard conversations ranging from drag queens, guns, and divorce), I drove on over to Frank's house in Eastpoint, just east of Apalachicola. When I got to his driveway I called him — no answer. About an hour an a half later I gave him another call — no answer. By that point it was 4 or 5:00 in the afternoon, I was tired, and decided that I'd had enough of Florida. Way more than enough of Florida. I drove north through Tate's Hell State Park where the pine trees were as straight as an arrow, a thing of beauty. The last time I'd seen trees that straight and evenly planted was on my drive from Berlin to Munich. It sounds weird, but the trees were gorgeous.
I headed west on I-10 towards New Orleans as the sun started to set. After many days of driving on small rural roads, it was great to be back on the interstate where I could cover a lot of ground on the wide open road. So long, Florida. I'll see you in December when I return for Art Basel in Miami.