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Chalk drawings honor timeless photographs

5:19 PM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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A local artist pays homage to a famous East Tennessee photographer.

She uses chalk to emulate his photographs.

At Dean's Restaurant in Oak Ridge, the meat loaf on the menu isn't the only special attraction. Along one wall, diners are treated to chalk drawings artist Terina Gillette created.

The restaurant owner suggested an Ed Westcott theme.

"He was interested in Ed Westcott's photography and I looked at them and they are in and of themselves pictures that he's done were not just history but they're very artistic. And so I was of course interested in doing that," Terina Gillette said.

Ed Westcott worked in Oak Ridge as a photographer for the government in the 1940s and 1950s during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.

"His photographs are so valuable for the fact that if it weren't for his photographs the city would not have anything to look at to determine how the city was built from the ground up," Ed Westcott's son-in-law Don Hunnicutt said.

A stroke several years age makes speech difficult for Ed Westcott so his son-in-law helps out.

"He just turned 91 last month and he's the oldest living citizen in Oak Ridge at this time," Hunnicutt said.

The artist worked at night while the restaurant was closed to capture Westcott's classic images of the Secret City, in chalk.

Gillette said, "His pictures are in history books, they're around town, there are photography books that have his pictures in it so it was a little challenging to try to figure out how to duplicate them to look realistic enough like the photography itself."

She selected photos from Westcott's extensive portfolio.

"I just really enjoyed this particular picture because it had the guard houses in the back and the old car," she said. "The Elza Gate Entrance I thought was really unique and interesting because you couldn't just come in, you had to have a pass to get in it so it kind of served the secret part of it to me so it was interesting."

This depiction of the calutron operators is well known.

"I liked this particular picture and chose this because it had a lot of depth into it and the second picture here is Mr. Westcott's portrait that I did," she said. "Since it was actually his work and I was just kind of doing a tribute to him that everyone should know that it was his pieces, what I chose the art from."

She also drew his photos of billboards of the time and newspaper headlines he captured with his camera.

"The secretness of getting into the city, how things operated, who was taking the pictures, encouraging people to end the war, and then the war is over so it kind of is progressive," she said.

Ed Westcott's photographs will endure...

"Unless they are destroyed by fire or some reason they will be here from now on. The library has quite a collection. We also have quite a collection. And when the day comes when that collection has to be passed on we'll have to decide where it goes but it will be on view for the public to see," Hunnicutt said.

While the chalk drawings will disappear at the end of the month.

"It is going to be gone. Chalk is an ephemeral substance and it's gone. Once it's gone it's gone," Gillette said.

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