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Thursday, May 5, 2016

From the Midway : Meeting some history

Monday, June 6, 2011

Judy Jorgensen is pictured next to two of her paintings which have been a part of the Cherokee County Courthouse since 1983. The paintings depict both the previous (left) and the current (right) Cherokee County Courthouse. Photo by Mike Leckband
Over the past three years, I have spent a lot of time in the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors room. During that time, I have spent several hours staring at the walls of that room.

On those walls are a very large topographical photo of Cherokee County; a photo of Cherokee City Hall (which I recently found out was taken by Richard Boothby); several county maps; plaques; a coat-rack; and three paintings.

One of the paintings is of the leader of the Milford Colonists leading a wagon train into the Cherokee river valley, and the other two paintings are of the Cherokee County Courthouse - or should say Courthouses, as one painting is of the old courthouse, and the other is of the current one.

I recently had the delightful pleasure of meeting the artist who did the two Courthouse paintings. Judy Jorgensen of Fremont, Neb. was in town visiting friends, and thought it would be fun to go check how her paintings have held up over time.

A call to the newspaper asking us to take a picture of Jorgensen standing next to the paintings was how I got involved in this little story. After my initial meeting with Jorgensen and her friends, we talked at length about the paintings. Jorgensen said she was commissioned to do the paintings by the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors back in 1983 . The Board, along with several other community members, had thought it would be a good idea to commemorate the old Cherokee County Courthouse, which was razed in the early 1960's and replaced with the current building. The hope was that later generations would have a link to the past by seeing what had come before.

At the same time, it was also logical to paint the current courthouse for posterity.

Jorgensen said that it was a delight to do the painting of the old courthouse, as it reminded her of the courthouse in Page County, Iowa, where she grew up. She also noted that she found the two Courthouses quite interesting because of the two different styles of architecture.

Jorgensen told me that she primarily used a palette knife and warm tones to complete the background layer first and then worked her way forward, the customary technique when using oil paints. She said she then used brushes to splash in colors, outlines, and foreground objects.

She said she used old photographs of the old courthouse, and took several photographs of the current courthouse for reference. I've only seen black and white photos of the old courthouse, with the exception of some slides of the old Courthouse being demolished. When I asked her how she knew what the color of the old courthouse actually was, Jorgensen told me that she, too, had some slides which were in color, and she based the painting off of these.

Jorgensen said it took her several weeks to do both paintings simultaneously, and she said it was "a lot of hard work, but it was fun."

She said that she no longer paints, but does have fond memories of her work. It was wonderful to "pick her mind" about the paintings, and I look forward to seeing them for some time to come.

Mike Leckband
From the Midway