Artist, veteran using pasta to realize his artistic dream
by The Associated Press
January 03, 2013 12:04 AM | 366 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SELMA, Ala. — Artists use a variety of ingredients for expression, but Vernon Spicer has a culinary connection to his creations — pasta.

Instead of arranging spaghetti, lasagna, macaroni and other carbohydrate-laden concoctions on a plate to consume, he puts his within a frame to savor.

From a distance, discriminating eyes might not be able to tell the difference, but up close it’s obvious this man really knows how to use his noodle to utilize noodles.

Asked why and how he came upon the idea, Spicer, 71, is quick to credit a dream — saying it propelled him toward one of Alabama’s most unusual artistic endeavors.

“It woke me up one night,” he said. “In it, I could see something that had a three-dimensional design, one that involved me using sticks to create.”

Audrey Spicer provided the spice to his dream, telling her husband to use pasta to achieve his goal, suggesting that the “sticks” could well have been uncooked spaghetti.

That was the beginning of his unusual hobby, one that began six years ago and has produced dozens of artistic creations that delight and puzzle those who see his finished products.

A Vietnam veteran who returned home with little hearing left in his right ear due to constant blasts from the howitzer he loaded, Spicer became a minister and dabbled in other projects before his dream and his wife’s suggestion.

Some of his pasta “paintings” take a long time to complete and a few of them carry a relatively hefty price tag.

“My most expensive piece was Brown Chapel (AME Church),” he said. “I’ve done two and taken one to art shows but haven’t sold either. I guess it’s because I’m asking $1,800.”

Brown Chapel served as the headquarters for activists who planned their strategy during historic demonstrations that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Spicer has refined his work after a hit-or-miss start in which his pasta failed to live up to his expectations at first.

“People ask me if I have to cook my pasta before using it, and I tell them that’s the last thing to do because they’d be too soft,” he said. “But, you’ve got to be careful because noodles can break into tiny pieces right out of the box.”

Becky Nichols, who directs the Selma-Dallas County Public Library, is one of many Spicer fans, saying his imaginative efforts have drawn a following in the community.

“I’ve told Vernon that I could dump his pictures into boiling water and have it for supper,” she laughed. “He’s an amazing artist, someone whose paintings show meticulous details.”

Spicer begins his creations by taking a photograph of his subject before enlarging it so that he can cover it with his pasta of choice before painting it.

It takes a steady hand and nerves of steel to apply tiny dabs of enamel-based house paint to his pasta, especially when he uses thin spaghetti.

Spicer mounts his creations on Plexiglas, a surface he says is ideal for him to apply the paint the uses. For Brown Chapel, he applied thick coats of dark blue paint for the sky behind the church.

The toughest part of the Brown Chapel painting was applying and then painting angel hair pasta that served as horizontal trim on the exterior. He managed to stay “between the lines” after hours of concentrated effort.

“When I get started on one of my paintings, I put the TV on mute and use the light,” he said. “Then, I put on a pot of coffee and head into another world, working through the night.”

The most challenging part after finishing his projects is selling them. Spicer said he sharply reduced the $1,800 asking price on his Brown Chapel painting but still couldn’t get any takers.

The best part of his Brown Chapel creation was the cost factor. It only cost him one box of pasta, but he had to shell out a lot more to have it framed.

It didn’t bother him because he still likes the way “Frames ‘N Things” owner Kay Traylor brings out the best in his paintings.

Spicer, one of three pastors at Freedom Baptist Church, said he spends almost as much time answering questions about his pasta paintings as actually producing them.

The first thing he usually advises people is not to hang one of his paintings over a fireplace, especially if it’s being used “because hot temperatures will make the pasta brittle and liable to crack.”

He uses other ingredients to complete his paintings because most pasta comes in basic off-white colors.

Parsley is perfect for hedges while dill weed helps to bring out the grass in other areas where greenery is included, he said.

Spicer, who also has done mallards in flight, says his next major project may be Mount Rushmore, even if there isn’t much color to one of America’s most epic artistic creations.
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