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 locally in 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 has 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!).

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. 

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

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