The last in the Mary C. Jenkins Cultural and Community Center historical artifacts in this series is the painting “Facing the Rising Sun” by C.R. Riddle. Clarence Ralph Riddle, who friends just called “Riddle,” was a local artist who owned and operated an art supply, jewelry, and watch repair shop in the Times Arcade alley. He was born on May 30, 1916 in Burnsville, Yancey County, NC to Clyde Riddle and Della Bartlett. Riddle contracted polio as a child and used a wheelchair and leg braces with crutches for mobility. He was fiercely independent, and had his car mechanically altered so the gas and brakes were on the steering column.
He attended the Asheville Farm School, which later became Warren Wilson College, and studied art. Riddle married Transylvania County native Janett Tinsley in 1945, and they had one daughter. His wife died in 1966, and he raised their child alone until she was grown. He then moved into an apartment in the back of the watch shop and lived out his remaining days there until he passed away on March 5, 1982.
The MCJCCC painting “Facing the Rising Sun” was commissioned by a group of citizens to commemorate the opening of the first MCJ Center in 1952. The image is said to “trace the progress of [African Americans] since slavery.” The houses are increasingly complex and well-crafted, and the path leading over the hills disappears into the colorful sky implying that an even brighter future is in the distance. The title shows that optimism as well, with the rising sun symbolizing a new beginning. The full mailbox suggests that good news is in store. The painting now hangs in the smaller conference room in the MCJCCC.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.