Saturday, October 29, 2016

Florence "Winky" Chesnutt

Covington and Mandevillle are home (and have been home) to hundreds of unique artists working in a variety of media. In the 1970's, Florence "Winky" Chesnutt made quite a name for herself in local art  circles, and although she moved to Missouri many years ago, she remains in the hearts and minds of many here in St. Tammany.  

Her artwork graces the walls of many local residences, and she also made a name for herself up there in Missouri as well, written about and photographed for a number of newspaper articles and magazine profiles.

In 1972, she was featured in the Pathways Magazine published in Covington. Here is a copy of that article. 

 Winky Chesnutt: "She walks in beauty " By Edna Duncan

All great artists transcend their work; that is, there is an aura of creativity a-round them which inspires others and assures more treasures from the artist himself. It is as though the work of the artist has emanated from him of its own volition, and will go on emanating until the last spark of life. As one might anti­cipate after viewing some of her work, Florence Walker Chesnutt has this aura.

Although Mrs. Chesnutt (better kn­own as "Winky") says she "grew up drinking linseed oil" since her Mother is an art major, one is not prepared for the diversity or tremendous output of this dynamic artist. After all, she has four children—three of them pre-teen— to look after. This alone would be en­ough to slow down even a rather deter­mined artist, no matter what his field. But Winky has been blessed with the strength to carry out her creative ideas, and the result is apparent not only in her paintings and sculpture, but all through her home where every piece of furniture has a character all its own, but blends inconspicuously with the whole.

On any day Winky may be found doing a commissioned portrait (either in oils or water color), drawing a rug-size unicorn pattern for an ambitious friend, helping a neighbor child research the his­tory of an old brickyard for a thesis, or dashing around Covington to assist in her many civic projects.

Although she is adept in the use of traditional media, Winky is constantly experimenting with new techniques and materials. Some of her most exciting works has been with chemicals on copper —these creations are framed in ornate window frames salvaged from old man­sions or churches.

She is a very aware person, not only of the present, but also the past and fu­ture. As part of her concern that the good of the past may slip through our fingers and out of our knowledge, she is sketching as many of the older homes as are still standing in Covington and re­cording as much of their history as is available to her. Naturally she has the help and approval of many interested citizens in the Parish.

As a very NOW type person, Winky would like to do fashion illustrating, which she has done in larger cities. She could be her own fashion model, as she has the long, loose limbs required for high fashion, plus the good looks of a young Rosalind Russell.

Born and reared in Little Rock, Ark­ansas, she graduated from the Univer­sity of North Carolina, made her debut in Little Rock, then went abroad with her parents for a year in Germany. She was married in England and went to St. Martin's Academy of Art in London for one term. All during her school years she was doing commercial art, illustrat­ing, etc. After her marriage she free­lanced and experimented in many med­iums. She lived in Iowa with her physi­cian husband until about five years ago when they decided it was desirable to move to a less rigorous climate where the children could enjoy the outdoors, and the parents could get them from underfoot more often. Covington has proven ideal for Winky in this and many other respects.

Here she can indulge her passion for preserving the past, while herself being stimulated by association with other artists in the area, both here and in New Orleans. She sells much of her work through The Magi in the French Quarter, the Caesar on Royal Street, and a shop in Lakeside.

Winky tries her hand at everything, including stitchery and the latest inno­vation, welding with copper wiring. No­table among her creations are her copper trees, inspired by the majestic oaks in the area. Oh, yes, and not to forget her Fren­ch Provincial furniture which she carved herself.

Through her determination to hold onto the best of the past while creating new beauty, we and future generations are reaping untold benefits. Thank you, Florence Walker Chesnutt, or Winky— (from her father's pet name for her, Tiddledewinks!).

End of article

Just click on the images below to make them larger. 

In his all-encompassing book on the history of St. Tammany Parish, Frederick Stephen "Steve" Ellis gave Winky Chesnutt the credit for persuading him to become a historian in the first place. His historical research, writings and personal lectures have been greatly appreciated by scores of organizations and young people interested in preserving the history of this area.

Bertha Neff and Winky Chesnutt receiving historic preservation plaques. 

She designed and illustrated the cover of the Historical Society Gazette

Winky Chesnutt's pen & ink sketch of the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse

Winky Chesnutt at exhibit in Arrow Rock, MO

An article about Chesnutt from the early 1980's 

Chesnutt Promotes Community Arts In St. Tammany Parish

Florence "Winky" Chesnutt's studio is a reflection of the artist's storehouse of talent and versatility Because of a recent fire which claimed a large number of her originals, the location of her studio in Mandeville is a temporary one.

Typically, Winky finds a positive outcome in the fire; her inventory revealed several items which she will find useful in a current project.

At any given time the visitor to her studio might find her engaged in assorted aspects of the production of her designs. From commercial to Fine art her concepts take shape in a multitude of media, among them watercolor, acrylic, oil. latex, copper and sumi ink, and they translate into as many forms - paintings, sketches, letterheads, business cards, note paper, posters, needlepoint, book covers, murals and banners.

She has also made unusual shop signs from ironing boards, bedsteads and old picture frames. She specifies that, although an artist may work in various media, the color, design and technique involved are all simply parts of drawing.

Her portfolio contains innumerable award winners, and her name is familiar locally for her innovative ideas and her participation in exhibits and organizations which have benefited from her artistic and leadership skills.

A native of little Rock, Arkansas, and a resident of St. Tammany Parish since 1968, Winky came by her aptitude in art as a natural outgrowth of her parents' interests. Her mother painted formal pictures of saddle horses, and her father was a newspaper publisher who during World War II occupied a position in the U.S. State Department, a. post which sent the family abroad to Germany and England.

Her knowledge of art was supplemented in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in London, New York and the Mid-West. Her education continues as she draws on her memory and experiences, her collection of photographs and newspaper clippings, history, trade journals and copies of old books to thoroughly immerse herself in the research required for a particular protect.

As a past president of the St. Tammany Parish Historical Society, she appreciates the area's relaxed southern atmosphere and the styles of architecture that abound in the Parish, "the beautiful weathered wooden buildings with lush greenery climbing all over them." Her pra­cticed eye perceives that "the air here has a texture, an indistinctness so you don't see things dearly."

Winky's flexibility extends also to her subjects, which include bayou scenes, madonnas, figures, buildings and large-scale single blossoms to mention just a few, and her selections are frequently offered with a commentary by the artist, who seasons her explanations with anecdotes of incidents and colorful personalities.

Several of her pieces express political statements, yet their style remains open to personal interpretation; deceptively innocent, they become powerful observa­tions when defined politically.

Her enthusiasm for technique has increased her awareness of potential areas for her ideas. Always exploring, she is presently considering the possibilities of the combination of color and fiber optics, glass fibers which transmit light impulses.

In the 1970's, Winky began what was to become an ongoing teaching program at the City Hall in Mandeville. When the building was constructed, the blank walls in the lobby presented a challenge to her, and, as its first Art Program Director, she implemented rotating mon­thly shows with tours for school children and demonstrations by the featured artist.

Through her efforts a federal grant was awarded to the program, and the state is justifiably proud of Mandeville's imaginative approach to the enrichment of its residents' art education.

She has taught technique and art appreciation but says that she is able to express herself verbally only up to a point. And that's when her feelings flow best through the brush in her hand. "You paint what moves you at the moment," she says, and the images she produces draw the viewer into sharing the moment that she has captured.

 It may be color, shape, line or the suggestion of movement or texture which attracts the eye and compels the viewer to respond to the sense of visual poetry' which Winky conveys.

Construction will begin shortly on her new studio at a site in Covington's Lee Lane, and despite her busy work schedule she actively supports the local arts and promotes their visibility in the community.

End of article

Home Portraits from 1974

The Chapman House on America St. in Covington

The old St. Tammany Art Association House on New Hampshire St.

The "Mary Fallon" House on West 17th Street
The "Oldest House in Covington"

The original courthouse building in Claiborne Hill

The Wherli House on New Hampshire Street

The Long Branch Hotel in Abita Springs

The Long Branch Hotel Annex in Abita Springs

The Mackie Home on New Hampshire St. in Covington

The house at the corner of Lakefront and Lamarque in Mandeville

The Old Mandeville School House, Lewisburg

The Segond House on Gibson Street

The Steamboat Gothic house on Rutland St in Covington

Chesnutt's four-foot diameter copper metal sculpture
The Saints circling the Alpha and Omega


Winky Chesnutt Friedrichs died on September 3, 2022,  at her home in Pleasant Green, MO, at the age of 96. Her obituary is printed below. 

Florence "Winky" Chesnutt Friedrichs
November 17, 1925 ~ September 3, 2022 (age 96)

Florence “Winky” (Andrews) Chesnutt Friedrichs, 96, of Pleasant Green, Missouri, passed away peacefully at home on Saturday, September 3, 2022.

She was born on November 17th, 1925, in El Dorado, AR, daughter of Florence Venita Cox of Pettis County, MO. and Col. Stanley Andrews of Moniteau County, MO.  She was married in England to John Christy Chesnutt, M.D. (deceased) of Little Rock, AR, and much later in Covington, LA to Carl Chaleron Friedrichs (deceased) of New Orleans, LA. 

She spent her childhood and attended high school in Little Rock where her father had a newspaper and radio station. He had served in World War I and also as a colonel in World War II. The family then moved abroad for Col. Andrews’s post-war foreign aid projects with the U.S. government. In these travels, Winky reunited with John Chesnutt, also from Little Rock, whom she married in 1949. 

She began college at Ward-Belmont College in Nashville, TN and earned her Bachelor of Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1947, and also studied in London, Frankfurt, and New York City. Along with her fine art inspired by nature, human expression, and spirituality, she also worked in fashion illustration and commercial art, painting and drawing portraits and many historic homes.

Her years in Iowa (as her young family expanded) were artistically prolific and she maintained a studio and participated in art exhibits. In addition to supporting her growing family and physician husband after his career move to Louisiana, she was instrumental in starting the still-thriving St. Tammany Art Association in Covington, LA, an art teaching program for schoolchildren at the city hall in Mandeville, LA, and was very involved in historic programs and events in the area. 

In 1986 she moved to Pleasant Green to live with and help care for her father, and continued the renovation work well underway on the antebellum Walker home. The original structure (ca. 1820), additions, and outbuildings of Pleasant Green became her final home and beloved project. Fascinated by American history and genealogy, and as a descendant of the original settlers of the area, she conducted tours well into her nineties with help from her wonderful circle of friends and volunteers. She also co-founded the Cooper County Historical Society and helped create the CCHS research center, co-authored many publications and mapping projects, and contributed countless hours toward historical projects and events in Cooper County. 

An early supporter of the Katy Trail State Park, she also raised funds with her art for the Save the (KATY) Bridge Coalition. For decades she hosted Black visitors looking for histories on their families or information about Missouri’s historic plantation culture. She also welcomed numerous Black history tours, school groups, and was a sponsor for the nationally recognized “Slave Dwelling Project.”  

In 2013, she was given the Boonville Tourism Hall of Fame Award. She was honored with the National Daughters of the American Revolution Historical Preservation Medal in 2018, and that same year received the McReynolds Award by the Missouri Preservation Honor Awards at a ceremony at the Missouri State Capitol.

Florence “Winky” Chesnutt Friedrichs will be remembered as an artist and historian with boundless enthusiasm and curiosity. Her southern-style storytelling and hospitable nature delighted many, and she very much enjoyed her friends and neighbors and local happenings. She never stopped wanting to be “of use” as a resource, as a skilled artistic hand, and as a hub of community connection. 

She is survived by her sons John “Jack” (Pam) Chesnutt II of Evergreen, CO; Stan Chesnutt of Los Altos, CA; Alan Chesnutt of Boulder, CO; and Sarah Chesnutt (Alan Reisman) of Boulder, CO and Pleasant Green, MO; grandchildren Drew, Hays, Jonathan, Madison, Elizabeth, and James; great grand-daughters Iley and Alyza; and stepdaughters Linda Farrell and Mary Friedrichs, stepson Carl “Fritz” Friedrichs (deceased) and many stepgrandchildren and step great-grandchildren.    

Friends may pay their respects and sign the guest book after noon Thursday, September 8, 2022, at the Meisenheimer-Page-Dady Funeral Home in Pilot Grove, where the family will receive friends from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Thursday. 

As a member of the Episcopal Church, her faith was a source of great strength. She also attended and supported the Pleasant Green United Methodist Church upon whose grounds she will rest in peace near the family home. 

A funeral service will be held at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, October 8, 2022, at Christ Church Episcopal, 524 4th St., Boonville, MO. The service will be livestreamed on the church's Facebook page at

Memorials are suggested to the Cooper County Historical Society or to the churches mentioned above.
End of Obituary

Award Received

In 2018, Ms. Chesnutt received the prestigious ‘McReynolds Award’ by the Missouri Preservation Honor Awards, according to the Booneville (Missouri) Daily News. The event occurred on Thursday, March 22, at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. 

"The award is given each year to someone who has done outstanding work in helping preserve Missouri history," the newspaper article stated. She was nominated by Gary Gene Fuenfheusen, President and Founder of ‘Missouri’s Little Dixie Heritage Foundation’ and Vicki McCarrell, board member, for Mrs. Friedrichs’ 70+ years of advocacy, preservation of Pleasant Green Plantation home, co-founding of the Cooper County Historical Society and countless illustrations for historical books and pamphlets. 

"Winky humbly accepted the award before an audience of over 100 people in the Capitol Rotunda, where many of her friends from Cooper County were in attendance as well as her daughter Sarah Chesnutt Reisman and grandson James from Boulder, CO, and son Jack Chesnutt, Jr. from Denver," the newspaper article concluded. 

 Facebook comments about Winky's artwork:

After reading of her passing on Facebook, a number of residents throughout Mandeville and Covington left comments on how they loved her artwork and what it meant to them, their families, and the community.

Melba C. Stieglitz - Oh my. I have some of her art. I loved her work

Jane Hill Foster- Beautiful work. What a long life she had. She was a huge part of history for Covington’s art community.

Billy Way- My across the street neighbor for several years. Always the kind soul.

Heidi Buhl- So sorry to read this.... she was very accomplished.

David Gauthier-Wow I grew up hearing her name because we own one of her paintings.

Peggy DesJardins- Covington’s original historic markers, designed by Dianne Joseph Madden were based on a drawing by Winky Chestnut. You can see them around Covington. 

Mary Lyn Bergeron- She was very talented. I have a couple of her prints framed. I send my regards to her family. I remember her son.

Denelle Cowart- I love her art.

Ann Moores- She was a remarkable and talented lady.

Robin Batty- Love her drawings of old Covington landmarks

Donna Autin- Robin Batty, I thought she was the artist of your pieces. Love them!!

Brenda Kaye Cleland Malley - She was a sweet lady!

Ron Barthet - On vacation one year, I timed my visit to Arrow Rock, MO, to coincide with an art exhibit Winky was giving there. What a great little historic town and a great variety of artwork. 

Dianne Andry - Did she have a frame shop on Lee Lane in the 1980’s-early 1990’s?
Ron Barthet -She had a studio on Lee Lane, not sure if it had frames.

Beth Undhjem- She was a lovely, talented lady and good friend of Mama's. I recently gifted an oil painting Winky did of our Copal Street house in Lewisburg to the kids.

Tracie Way - Such fond memories of her from when we lived across the street in RiverWood! May she rest in peace!

Jimmy Rogers- Wonderful lady and artist. She and her husband Carl were my landlords for a while when we first moved to La.

Mitch Valley - My mother has two of her artwork in her kitchen.

Anita Smith Lagasse-Clark - I am fortunate enough to have one of her “Mandeville Harbor” pictures! She also did the picture on the early bulletins at St. Timothy UMC

Meg Williams - Loved her!!!

Ellen Rein Pierce - I believe she is the artist who drew the (Mandeville)  city's flag logo

Melinda Overstreet - Such a talented lady! ❤️

Billy Way - (Her artwork) is one of my prized possessions and has been for many years. It hangs in my den.

Carolyn Brown George - she lived across the street from us in Riverwood.

Jennifer Keller-Walkenford - I have 3 original paintings. I love them. One drawing I'm hoping to donate to the Mandeville museum. 

Hollie D. Anderson - She painted a portrait of my family. It is amazing and hanging in my den.

Linda Coate - I modeled for Winky in 1973. I danced ballet and studied with Ms Rosemary. I did several ballet poses. It was for a show she was doing. She gave me one of the paintings for my time. Best deal ever. She was a great artist and a beautiful talented soul.

A memorial retrospective exhibit of her works scheduled for January to April 2023 in Fayette, Missouri