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Meat and Three

There’s a spot in every Southern town. A place for locals to meet and eat a home-cooked meal—usually a fixed menu of one meat and three companion vegetables. An establishment long on character and short on the notion of cuisine, populated by a cross section of the community’s populace, ranging from the most influential to the very least of these. Fully half the art dealers in New York—and many others from across America and distant shores—have shared an artery-clogging meal of the best damn fried chicken at such a spot on Spartanburg, South Carolina’s, west side, a small, cramped bungalow called Woodward’s Cafe. In business from 1926 until its demise in a fire in 2005, Woodward’s stood unrivaled as the best out-of-the-way place at the end of a less-traveled road this man knew.

The noted watercolorist Stephen Scott Young and his then dealer, John Surovek, came to the Upstate to call on Tom Styron at the Greenville County Museum one day in 1993. It was my pleasure to pick them up at the airport. When they both reported that they were hungry after the morning’s flight—and with Scott’s choice of subject matter in mind—we turned toward Spartanburg and breakfast at Woodward’s. We all had the fried chicken as a side to grits and eggs. That chicken was so thoroughly enjoyed and fussed over that when lunch time came, Scott found a sketchpad and pencils and asked to return. Charles Whitmire, “Spot,” to his friends and regulars, was just a little leery, but he had surely seen it all before. One of the sketches Scott made that day is reproduced here.

If a drawing is born from a line and a line is born from, well, the first contact between pencil and paper, I suppose one could say it all begins with a spot. Scott Young was moved by the honesty of one particular spot to record what he saw, though memory of the chicken surely had something to do with it. Those who dined with me at Woodward’s still talk about the chicken whenever we talk art. Amazing—what a simple, shared meal can lead to. All beginning with a spot.

Stephen Scott Young (b. 1957)
Woodward’s Café (1993)
Pencil on paper
18 x 18 inches
Signature Details: Lower right, lower left
Owner: Private Collection, Charleston, South Carolina
1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
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