The Cigar Box

a group of my freestanding paintings, 2017

In 1969, when I was on the verge of first grade, my mother walked me up the block to Breaux grocery (in Gulfport, Mississippi) so I could get a cigar box. It was what one did before starting to go to school. My older siblings had done it too.

The store had lots of old cigar boxes and didn’t mind giving them away. Into the box went pencils, crayons, glue, blunt scissors. Maybe there were other things; the art supplies are all I remember. I decorated the box.

My mother had household ways formed during the depression, and this redirection of tobacco packaging to school supply fit that pattern.

images below are from “Tramp Art: Another Notch” by Clifford Wallach, 2009. The second image shows a group of diverse works all by the same maker, including a “crown of thorns” frame at right. The wood from cigar boxes was a primary medium of tramp art.

–Ken Weathersby

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