Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 40

RM

| NEIGHBORS

The Landscapes of home
Clara Straight shares her joy by painting - every day

Above: Clara Straight draws inspiration from the landscape of her home in Yarrow, including the Chariton River behind her. Below: This painting shows the one-room school Clara attended.

by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop

was a horseshoer and he really knew his horses.
He said to me, 'now if you don't get the man just
he effervescent woman dressed all in white right he is OK. But you better make sure his horse
enters the room and is immediately drawn is correct.' "
Clara has an uncanny ability to see the big picto the paintings on the walls. She surveys
one from a distance, then moves in and ture, even when she is applying the early brush
examines the brush strokes up close. Initially crit- strokes. "I know exactly how much and where it's
ical, she finally nods her head in approval and her going to sit on the page and what it is to feel like
and what the mood is. I just go all over the whole
mouth opens with a ready smile.
thing. And then I stop after two hours so I get
The paintings are hers, after all,
the background, the spirit of it, down. The next
each one signed in a neat script
day or so I come back and do a second wave
with Clara Straight. They line the
Yarrow
and start filling in the details. And the last
walls at Fort Chariton restaurant in
one is when you get the little specks and
her hometown of Yarrow. On this day,
the birds and everything. But you don't
other paintings rest on easels scattered
dare go too far or you ruin it."
around the dining room.
While Clara has sold many paintMembers of the Kirksville Arts Assoings, no one owns as many of her
ciation fill the room. The group is trypieces as the artist herself. That's
ing to raise funds to replace a building
because some of the paintings prove
that burned in 2016 and Clara wants
too dear for her to let go. That was the
to help. One of her paintings - a bright, colorful
image of a redbud in bloom - will be auctioned to case with a winter scene painted when the outside
temperature was 20 degrees below zero.
benefit the recovery effort.
"The moon was shining bright and I wanted to
This is not the first time Clara has helped the
arts prosper. For most of her 99 years she has put paint the lane down to our house in the moonpaint to canvas, starting with shoe polish dabbed light," Clara recalls. "I was in the house and when
on the inside of Post Toasties boxes at three years I got to the moon I ran down there to see how the
of age. For 36 of those years she taught design at moonlight fed into the whole thing. You can see the
little stars in the sky and the snow and the moon
Cornell University.
As she greets each and every person gathered on the snow. And it is so pretty. I get it out every
for the luncheon, she fields many questions about Christmas and hang it up."
A neighbor once asked Clara to paint a copy of
her work. "I've said this so many times, and Picasso said it. 'Just look at them.' You don't need to
talk about it, that is superfluous," Clara says.
Clara paints every day, lately landscapes or
flowers in the impressionistic style. "I always have
something going," she says. "I usually wait for the
first things to bloom in the spring and try to paint
them. That's why I paint the redbuds because that
is the first thing that shows color. And now I am
painting poppies and white daisies."
She rarely paints people. "I don't, I just don't.
They have to be perfect, although one time I was
painting a man and his horse and my brother, Paul,

T

40

RURAL MISSOURI | JULY 2018

that painting for him. "I said maybe, but I don't
know when. But you couldn't do a second one.
I can't copy a painting. It would be horrible. It
wouldn't have any life in it."
After nearly 10 decades as an artist, Clara has
yet to run out of ideas. She draws inspiration
from the nearby Chariton River, painting it in all
seasons. She's also put her skills to work on the
few remaining buildings in Yarrow, including the
store, the one-room schoolhouse where her education began and the depot.
The latter is the subject of an unusually realistic oil painting Clara did many years ago that
returned to greet the artist at the fundraiser, much
to her delight. Butch Naughton of Macon bought
the depot painting at an auction.
Clara put her own memories of the train onto
the canvas. "Of course I've ridden that old train,"
she says. "We would get on the train at 3 o'clock in
the morning and go to Novinger. I wanted it to look
like getting on at 3 o'clock, with the train coming
down the track. I had the little old light in the window there where the tickets are sold."
Butch also owns another of Clara's paintings he
bought at the Kirksville Art Association's gallery. "I
just kept going by it," he says. "Probably after three
trips to Kirksville I said, 'I've got to have that.' You
look at that painting, that will make you happy if
you walked into your house and saw it every day."
Clara's friends say she brings great joy into their
lives, whether through her works of art or her quick
laugh that enters every conversation. On this day
when Clara is giving back to the art community,
she is honored with the group's longevity award -
not measured in years, but in the joy she has given
to everyone in the room.
Angela Schultz, co-owner of Fort Chariton,
recalls hosting Clara's 97th birthday party. One of
the guests brought her collection of Clara's art.
"I did not have the walls filled at the time," Angela says. "And when she brought all of her paintings
of Clara's in I knew then that's what I was supposed to have on my walls. I went to her home the
next day and bought four of them."



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2018

Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Intro
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 4
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Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 6
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Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 42
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover4
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