Bayou Icon | Ann Cline
article by Georgiann Potts
photography by Kelly Moore Clark
An artist’s zest for life, love and family.
Ann Merriman Cline has come home once again. Over her life she has lived in faraway places and has made many friends in all of them. Even though she has lived on both coasts and abroad, a pattern emerges when one traces her life’s journey. No matter where she is, or what adventures she is having, at some point she always comes back home to Monroe.
This month a one-woman show of her art is being shown at the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council’s gallery on Cotton Street in West Monroe. Her works, primarily the landscapes that she prefers to paint, will offer the public a rare opportunity to explore the world as Ann, a fine artist, sees it. Ann interprets bayous, valleys, forests, and glorious florals with an artistic talent discernable to all. Because of her zest for life and her ability to capture that passion on canvas and paper – and because she has come back to where a part of her heart has always been — Ann Merriman Cline is our April Bayou Icon.
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) once wrote, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Fine artists throughout the centuries — including Ann Merriman Cline — know this for the truth that it is. Artists spend a lifetime creating art that reveals something of the essence of the soul – theirs and ours. Too many lives get caught up in the everyday, the mundane, the routine. Because of art, we may escape – for a time, at least – into a world not accessible any other way there and glimpse the soul.
Ann Merriman was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her father, Grady Merriman, was a gifted artist who worked as Art Director for major department stores. Her mother, Mae Karsten, was born in Chicago and graduated from the University of Arkansas. The two met after Mae graduated, fell in love, and married. They had four children — three daughters and one son – Grady Merriman, Fredricka Durham, Lynn Phillips, and Ann.
It was her father’s work that brought the family to Monroe. Monroe businessman Jack Masur found Grady and convinced him to move to Monroe to do window installations and other art for Monroe’s singular department store at the time, “The Palace.” Grady was well-known within the department store world for his talent. Ann was a toddler when the family moved.
Ann remembers her father with deep affection, possibly because (as she readily admits) they were so very much alike. “My father was so handsome, and always so very sweet to me,” Ann remembers. “We were alike in temperament – and I shared his love for art.”
When she was around two years old, Ann remembers creating her first art. She laughs when she tells the story. She was visiting with her mother in her mother’s friend’s home and noticed newly hung wallpaper. “The paper was a very light, yellow shade and featured delicately drawn flowers,” Ann says. “I decided to improve it. I added good, bold strokes of black crayon. At the time, I wondered why my mother and her friend were not thrilled with my efforts (which were really pretty good).”
There was a life lesson for Ann from this first encounter with art. She learned at this tender age that an artist and society do not truly understand each other – a lesson that she has carried with her throughout her creative life. “From this incident on, I often worked on art in secret – but not on wallpaper,” Ann says with a twinkle in her eye.
GETTING AN EDUCATION
Ann graduated from Ouachita Parish High School and still remembers with gratitude the excellent education she received there. She especially enjoyed taking art classes from Miss Hatton. She encouraged Ann and gave her the support that she needed. Hatton recognized Ann’s talents and wanted her to pursue that passion.
After graduating from OPHS, Ann attended Louisiana State University for a year. There she encountered two academics who intrigued her. One was T. Harry Williams, a very popular historian, author, and teacher (history) who was well-known for his work on the life of Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long. A serious scholar, Williams won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Governor Long.
Ann enjoyed knowing Williams very much, but she enjoyed another professor even more. Robert Penn Warren (three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and founder/editor of LSU’s literary magazine, The Southern Review, was also a very popular historian, author, and teacher (English) who was well-known for his fictional work, All the King’s Men, that centered on the same governor. “Both were excellent professors, but I liked Warren more,” Ann admits. “We became friends.”
After a successful first year at LSU, Ann withdrew and began making plans to move to New York City to study art. Her father was especially eager for Ann to see something of the world beyond Louisiana and the South.
STUDYING IN NEW YORK CITY
Ann remembers well her first train trip from home to NYC. She found the 24-hour trip to be a wonder, but with one problem – she had no food. Her mother had assured her that the train would have excellent food service, but Ann soon discovered that there was no food service. She was seated near a lady who was traveling with several small children. The two struck up a conversation, and the lady asked Ann if she were hungry. Ann admitted that she was, so the lady offered to share the meal that she had packed for her family. She apologized to Ann, saying that it wasn’t all that good, but Ann remembers it as being “really, really good!”
When Ann finally reached the end of her journey, she went immediately to food vending machines in the train station. Gathering her coins, Ann put together “. . . a small feast right there and then.”
Once settled, Ann enrolled in Cooper Union (established in 1859), a private college that offered degrees in art, architecture, and engineering. “Cooper Union is one of the most difficult schools in the U.S. to which one can be accepted,” Ann’s daughter, Pamela Johananoff, says. After 2 years at Cooper Union, Ann attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) where she graduated with degrees in Fine Arts and Fashion Design.
New York City stole a part of Ann’s heart. She literally fell in love with the great city. New York City was literally a new world for her, offering an education far broader and better than any university could have offered. “I loved the city! The museums, the culture, the history – they were all wonderful,” Ann says.
Although Ann took classes in the traditional sense, she also explored all that NYC had to offer – observing, learning, internalizing all that was to be seen. Obviously, NYC’s collection of world-class museums provided “classrooms” of their own. “I loved all of the museums – the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan, the Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art – they were all special places, each unique,” Ann remembers. “But for me, it was the Frick Collection that was my personal favorite. Here were the Old Masters, paintings by Whistler and Renoir, plus exquisite examples of the decorative arts. The Frick was a lovely place to get lost in for an afternoon.”
Not only did Ann find the museums endlessly interesting, she also found the people in NYC fascinating. When she began taking classes at the New York School of Design, she met a number of fellow artists. Ann was busy with her studies and creating art, but she was also being noticed by the young men she met. “There were times when I yearned for a quiet, long weekend in which I could rest, produce my art, and study alone,” she says. “But there were often weekend dates that made that difficult.” One weekend while having a cocktail with a not-so-interesting date, their waiter brought Ann a drink compliments of a man at the bar. Ann looked, but didn’t recognize the fellow. Her date did, and was astonished that she didn’t know who Howard Hughes was.
Increasingly, Ann was surrounded by people who shared her love for fine art. She met Salvador Dali on her 30th birthday when a friend brought him to Ann’s birthday party. “He and the friend gave me a book of Dali’s work, which Dali made more special by signing it to me and drawing a little picture on the inside cover.” That Dali sketch shows a Viking ship sailing toward a lighthouse that is emitting bright rays. Was Dali acknowledging in his drawing that Ann’s artistic talent and charm drew people to her? “Dali was a very nice man. Quite interesting. He told me that I was very young and very talented,” Ann remembers.
Ann fell in love with New York, even though occasionally her naivete would complicate things. Once, for example, she decided that she wanted to buy some stock. She went to the bank and withdrew $5000 in cash (a tidy sum in those days). She put the cash in her purse and went to Wall Street to make her purchase. There she met a man who was not then where he is now, but important nonetheless – Alan Greenspan. “He asked what I wanted, and I explained that I wanted to buy some stock and had the cash in my purse to do it,” Ann remembers. “He motioned to another fellow and told him to escort me back to the bank and see that this cash was redeposited immediately. Then, he said, I should come back and talk with him about stock.”
Among those Ann met was Samuel Cohen Johananoff (known to everyone as “S.C.”). Johananoff was a successful businessman who had been educated in boys’ schools in England and was truly a “citizen of the world”. A polyglot, he spoke 11 languages.
To put it simply, Ann says that Johananoff “swept me off my feet”. Their romance was short, and they married in March 1959. “It was so fast. I fell in love – for the very first time – and it was a serious love,” Ann says. ‘The marriage didn’t last forever, but the memory of that first love has never left.”
The newlyweds moved to Israel and Holland, and lived for a time in Scotland. Their only child, Pamela, was born in Edinburgh in 1964. During the marriage, Ann worked with her husband in his shipping container business. The two collaborated on some innovative designs for those containers which proved quite successful. The Johananoff business model was later taught in classes at the Petroleum Institute in England.
In 1966 when Pamela was very young, Ann decided to come home. She brought her daughter to Monroe. There the two lived with Ann’s mother for a time while Ann earned a second degree in Fine Arts at the University of Louisiana in Monroe. Pamela accompanied her mother back to Holland when the divorce was granted. Ann remembers Johananoff’s family warmly. “His family was lovely – a wonderful family,” Ann says. Pamela remembers that Johananoff’s father was one of the founders of Tel Aviv in the very early 1900’s.
Ann says that her favorite country abroad is England – because she speaks the language. She also enjoyed very much the 3 years that she lived in Israel. She found the country to be beautiful and the people utterly charming. A piece of her heart was left there, as well. Pamela adds, “Mom learned Hebrew quite well, I am told. She still blurts out phrases from time to time!”
FINDING LOVE WITHOUT LOOKING
A dear friend of Ann’s, Marie-Louise Snellings, introduced Ann to Dr. Frank Cline, another of Marie-Louise’s friends. Cline was a successful orthopaedic surgeon and also divorced. The two found that they shared a number of interests and began dating. Once again, Ann found love. The two were married at George and Marie-Louise’s home. The Snellings – together with Carrick and Nancy Inabnett – became Pamela’s godparents.
Suddenly Ann was mother to not just Pamela, but to three more children (Colleen Cline Stewart, Francis X. Cline III, and Cathy Cline Goggins). For the first time, Ann’s time was divided – she was a full-time wife and mother, and her art often had to be put aside. “Frank gave me as much time to work on my art as he could, but it was just hard with four children,” Ann says.
As the children grew up, life began sorting itself out again. One, daughter Pamela, followed in her mother’s footsteps. After graduating from Emory with one year at the London School of Economics, Pamela studied at the Gemological Institute of America. Then she added one year at Christie’s Education which completed the work necessary for her Masters in French Fine Arts. In the summer of 1986, she moved to Paris where she worked at Shearson, Lehman, Hutton.
In 1993-1994, Pamela lived in NYC where she studied jewelry manufacturing at FIT and became a graduate gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America. She wisely kept her Paris apartment so that she could spend 3 months a year there. Pamela moved back to Paris to live full-time two years ago.
In 1988, the Clines bought a home in Little Rock. Ann now had the time to create art. Frank would work in Monroe at his practice, and then would spend weekends and time off in Little Rock. Ann became involved in the Arkansas Art Center and spent time with the museum there. The two never actually moved permanently to Little Rock. Instead, they maintained a Monroe residence, the Little Rock house, and an apartment in Paris. “The last few years of Dad’s life were spent in Little Rock, Paris, and Monroe,” Pamela says. “They would spend about 4 months a year in Paris in the apartment that they had bought in 1997. They both loved it, and it was very sweet that they took drawing classes together at Academie des Beaux-arts.”
FINDING A NEW PATH
When Frank died in 2003, Ann says that she was left feeling empty. She remained in Little Rock, searching for the next chapter of her life to reveal itself. She and Frank had met Trent Galloway on occasion at an Anglican church in Little Rock that they all attended but she really didn’t know him.
As she was going through this time alone, Ann remembers noticing Trent again. This time he was sitting alone, looking forlorn, on a snowy day in Little Rock. Ann was serving coffee at church and saw him there, dressed entirely in white. “And there was snow on the ground! I had never seen anyone in all white in the wintertime,” Ann explains.
She took him a coffee and a friendship developed. She learned later that he was intentionally wearing all white (in defiance of that Southernmost rule – never wear white after Labor Day or before Easter) because he was in his “break all the rules” stage of life. Recently divorced, Trent was trying to find a new chapter, too.
Together, they each found their way to happiness once again. They divided their time between Los Angeles and Little Rock, and ultimately married in Baton Rouge. A little over a decade ago, they moved to Monroe and settled. Trent explains, “We came to Monroe because Ann was ready to go back home.”
Cicero wrote, “The art of living well, is of all the arts the greatest.” Ann Merriman Cline has mastered not only the fine art of painting and drawing, but she has also mastered the art of living well. We could all take lessons from her example.