Chewaukla Bottling Factory of Hot Springs, Arkansas boasted Chicago backers, state-of-the-art equipment, nationwide distribution, Chicago Tribune ads, renowned doctors, and a song from 1920/30s for decades.
Today, Chewaukla is not marked by sign, path, or map. It deteriorated and burned into shells of blackened gold and red brick and brackish mire of leaves.
Why note it? I knew almost no history before trekking to Chewaukla. I relate to the seen. After years of weather, time, fire, and wild growth it is without artifice. I am weathered bare by and of hiding trauma. Sometimes, in writing and photographs I stand as tall as the remaining chimney. Sometimes, as now, struggling through recovery from spinal surgery and pulmonary embolism. I am mostly broken.
A photograph of a people and building torn by war in a far-off country speaks volumes. We feel for those people, but we are not those people. If we are not in it, we cannot understand what those people feel. However, we draw near and connect with what we know of history of buildings in our backyards and an artist survivor before us. We see in these buildings the brokenness of time, weather, and disaster and we draw near to understand struggles from childhood abuse to Ukraine’s war. Then we see triumph through art overcoming the past and creating beauty from brokenness.
Time restores this land to the Sleepy Waters it once was. In time, God will restore me. For now, I live between these worlds where the woodlands are beauty, breath, and rest.
My black and white abstract studies of old, historical, often dilapidated architecture empower us to see the minute details of these buildings and our lives. I speak my truth to engage people to understand not just trauma itself but how it shapes how we think about the world in general. They are invitations for all to share their truth and make the unknown known.
In both art and trauma, no voice should be bound. All may be engaged by past, present, and inspiration of future.