As I paid for my books, my attention was drawn to a large watercolor painting hanging above the reference section of the library.
I caught my breath, as though I'd spotted a long-lost friend. I was sure had seen that handsome snowscape before: it was by Jack Hayward (1903-1977).
Well, of course it's here, I reminded myself, because Jack lived in Alva.
As I explained to the librarians (who had calmly watched me whip out my camera to take these pictures), Jack Hayward and his wife Marge were dear friends of my grandmother's. When I was a teenager, I visited his studio and their beautifully-decorated home several times while my grandmother lived in Alva. (Marge had an outstanding collection of paperweights on display, many crafted of millefiori glass.)
The library also has an oil painting by Jack Hayward:
|Chimney Rock in Northwestern Oklahoma|
Seeing these works made me remember the importance of Jack Hayward's work in my early life. Hanging in pride-of-place in the entry hall of my grandmother's house was a watercolor landscape by Hayward:
|(It's in the upper left corner of the photo)|
Even though my old photograph is fuzzy, my memory of Jack Hayward is clear. He is sitting outside my grandmother's house at 801 Flynn on a summer evening with her, her husband John and their mutual old friend Franc ("France") Wyatt. Or Jack was in his studio not many blocks away, surrounded by his paintings and sketches, paintbrushes and paper.
My grandmother owned at least three of Jack Hayward's paintings: the watercolor landscape above, a Mexican waterfront scene called "Tampico," and a landscape in oils dedicated to "Mrs. Kettle," a reference to a disagreement they'd once had which they later agreed was a case of "the pot calling the kettle, black."
J.N. Hayward, as he signed his work, was a noted Alva artist and art instructor. Although not much is written about him that's available online, there are several websites that contain memories of him and some of his students.
I'm not sure how well Jack's work sold during his lifetime; so many artists are not really appreciated until after they are gone.
And I don't know what happened to Jack's paintings when my grandmother sold the Crowell House in Alva.
Because these art works are no longer in the family, I've always wanted to own an original Jack Hayward painting, and I figured if there was ever one for sale it would probably be in Northwest Oklahoma. One of my objectives in visiting Alva was to look for Jack's work and see if any galleries or shops had one available.
But people I'd talked to in town about Jack had told me that his work doesn't come on the market very often. I thought the best I could do was take pictures of the art in the library's permanent collection, and later troll the Internet for possible offerings of his work. (I didn't have time to visit the other public spaces in the area where I've heard Jack's work is on display.)
Then a Moment of Grace happened:
I left the library and went to the downtown antique store for my appointment. I bought a few small things to take home as souvenirs. The owner of the shop, seeing my great interest in All Things Old, offered to let me explore the back storage area too.
And there, high on a wall in the dark back of the store, surrounded by many wonderful dusty old things probably unseen for years, was a smallish framed watercolor painting.
I peered at the artist's signature in the dim light. Was it...?
Yes. J.N. Hayward '62.
I galloped to the nearest ATM machine, zipped back to the store and bought the painting. (Thank You, Lord, I think this is small enough to carry home on the plane!)
When I got back to The Vintage Inn (my grandmother's old house), I was able to take a closer look at Jack's creation:
Not a major work, but a very pleasant one. Perhaps a little water damage in one corner, but not in bad condition for 51 years old. And to me, priceless.
What a blessing, to go forth in search of memories and come back with something tangible -- a link with my past and a small treasure I can share with others in the future.
To be continued...
A great place to find out more about the arts in Alva is the nonprofit Graceful Arts Gallery downtown: http://www.gracefulartscenter.org/home
Graceful Arts is the result of a collaboration between Freedom West Community Development Corporation and the Wisdom Family Foundation. These agencies understand the importance of integrating the arts and humanities into a community's overall economic revitalization strategy. Their work makes Alva, and other rural towns in in their service area, better places to live.
The Alva Public Library's website is here: http://www.alvalibrary.okpls.org/index.shtml
This story is one in a series on the historic red brick house at 801 Flynn in Alva, Oklahoma. This Prairie-style mansion was built in 1906 by local businessman George W. Crowell.
My grandmother bought it from his heirs in 1968, and lived there for several years.
The house has changed hands several times since then; it’s now The Vintage Inn, a bed-and-breakfast.
I went back to visit in October 2013. All the blog posts I wrote on the visit are collected here: http://estatesalechronicles.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-historic-house-at-801-flynn-alva.html
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