Last year I met a new artist friend, Kim Napier, in Nashville and over lunch we talked about painting, drawing, art supplies, the discovery and journey of it all … all the things that tickle my insides. During our conversation she told me the story of a man named Kitchen who she met while he was relocated to Tennessee during Hurricane Katrina. The story was compelling and unforgettable. She had completed a beautiful oil painting of him and she graciously asked me to try my hand at drawing his portrait in graphite from a photo she had taken of him while he was relocated to Tennessee facility in Franklin. Well, I finally gave it a try… a first for drawing dreads and grey hair… not bad for a first attempt. 😉 I realized during the process, that I thrive on drawing ‘feelings and emotions’ in addition to eyes, noses, ears, teeth, etc. I am in constant search of how the feeling of the portrait is reflected on paper. This is exactly what happened with Kitchen’s portrait. As I completed the drawing, I felt like Kitchen and I were old friends. I want to know more about him, where he is, and what he’s doing … make sure he is doing OK. You know?
Rather than me telling you Kitchen’s story, I asked my friend Kim to allow me to post an excerpt from her personal notes about her time with Kitchen. Keep reading, I promise you will be blessed!
An excerpt from Kim Napier:
This is ‘Kitchen’ who arrived in Franklin, TN with many others who were displaced by Katrina in 2005.
His given name is Hillary Preston; a Vietnam veteran who never quite recovered from the annihilation of war. Besides his Bohemian appearance, he quit speaking, which provoked even more fear as he roamed the streets of home State of Louisiana. Towns-people were wary of him and children ran away when they saw him coming. His countenance was powerful.
On arrival at the TN facility [after the storm], one of those children who once feared him in Louisiana, now a thirty-something year old young man, spotted him. He called Kitchen’s family who were also dispersed throughout the South East. “You’ll never guess who is here!”
Kitchen had once saved this young man’s life by yanking him out of a truck’s path many years ago. The young man was now determined to be Kitchen’s unrelenting servant. When his ‘savior’ finished a cup, he poured another, he bought and lit cigarettes and showered such servitude that Kitchen’s silence was finally shattered one day with a simple,
“Why you so good to me?”
The young man reeled with amazement that Kitchen could speak. When he recovered, he retold the truck story, which Kitchen neither remembered nor believed.
~Kim Napier (www.kimnapier.com)
[Edited with permission from author]