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A native of North Carolina, Mangum's watercolors are known around the nation. His paintings have been exhibited by notable museums including the National Arts Club, the Society of Illustrators and the Allied Artists of America. His newest book, "Carolina Preserves," is a collection of stories and paintings inspired by North Carolina.
North Carolina: Behold the Beauty
When my mother grew ill, I went to live with relative in Mamers, N.C. As a young boy, I could not believe I had been thrown into this stopping place along the road. I hated the rural existence and yearned for the day when I could leave.
Now I know what I know, I realize that that part of my life heavily influenced who I am today and what I have become. Aunt Kate was there for me, serving as the most nurturing mentor of my life. After the death of her husband, she became mother and father to her children, aunt and mentor to me, farmer, gardener, seamstress, cook, preserver. She modeled a work ethic like no one I have known since.
Looking back, I realize that some of my fondest memories are from that very time in my life. Like sitting at Aunt Kate's feet drawing pictures on scrap paper while she labored at the stove. Or learning (the hard way) how to drive a tractor through tobacco fields. Or discovering that I could make up for my deficiency in Spanish by creating bulletin boards for extra credit.
This book is a product of Aunt Kate's teachings and her influence on me. No one can match Aunt Kate when it comes to preserving. I remember the hugs pile of remnants, gathered either from material remaining from my cousin's homemade Easter dress or the shirt that was finally handed down to the smallest child. The pile was never wasted, but turned into beautifully crafted quilts to warm the occasional chilly nights. At the time, it seemed like Aunt Kate was always in the garden, hoe in hand, straw hat atop her head, waging that never-ending battle with weeds. Everything was used from her garden. Opening her pantry door, then now, meant being welcomed by a rainbow of colors from the rows and rows of green pickles; berry-colored jams; red, yellow and lime-green fruits; and minced and chopped vegetables - all lovingly preserved by Aunt Kate. If the fresh vegetables and fruits could not be eaten, processed in those familiar glass jars or made into sweet-smelling jams and jellies, they were shared with neighbors and friends. Nothing went to waste with Aunt Kate.
So, in many ways, this book is about coming of age. About learning how to recognize the beauty around us and in us. And about preserving those things that were a part of that journey. This book is Aunt Kate's pantry. Reading each new story is like reaching for another jar off the shelf. It is through the sharing of their memories that these 45 North Carolinians have joined me in creating this array of images.
This three-year period of researching, writing and painting for Carolina Preserves has shown me that all of us come from humble roots. As I have gotten to know the story contributors in this book, I realize that their backgrounds are similar to mine. They, too, could not have known how the adults in their lives or the surroundings from which they came would be the very thing that would shape their future. I am honored that they were willing to share their stories, giving the reader a bounty of richness of texture and color from which to see how North Carolina has influenced this wide array of her citizens.
This book is for our children. May they realize the beauty and influence surrounding them each day. May they value those people and places that are, at this very moment, shaping their futures.
Copyright © 1999 William Mangum. All rights reserved.