Art Imitates Literary Life

Actual crawdads are small, but Where the Crawdads Sing is a hugely popular book, and the eponymous painting by Nan Davis measures six by five feet.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Western North Carolina resident Delia Owens, has broken all kinds of sale records for a debut novel. Perched on The New York Times Best Seller list for 124 weeks-plus, and prepped for stardom by actress/entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon — who picked it for her Hello Sunshine Book Club — the novel is the coming-of-age tale of “Marsh Girl” Kya Clark, who grows up rough on the North Carolina coast in the mid 20th century. Owens’ background as a zoologist gives the naturalist novel its leitmotif, as Kya, in her isolation, equates animal behavior to her own struggles. “Delia told me that the story is about loneliness,” says local artist Nan Davis, who was commissioned to paint a 72” x 48” oil landscape for the author’s home. After purchasing one of Davis’ paintings in Hendersonville, Owens sought out more work: “Delia asked me to visually interpret the story of the Crawdads novel,” the artist reveals. While the movie, produced by Witherspoon and starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, will be filmed this summer in Louisiana’s bayou country, Davis depicted the NC coastal marshes so crucial to the original story. Locations may be fluid, but Davis points out that her main job as a painter was “to communicate … the emotions [of the book].”

— Ed.

Nan Davis Contemporary Art, NorthLight Studios, 357 Depot St., River Arts District, Asheville. For more information, see 

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