Sweet Lunacy

ABOVE “Growing up with cats and loving their unique behaviors, I was so pleased to find CATS Gallery, says Barbara Nassar. “The whimsical nature of my hand built cat sculptures is enhanced by an ancient Japanese firing process, raku. After being fired in an out door kiln, the red hot pieces are removed with long tongs and placed in lidded cans containing organic matter. The resulting flames use up the oxygen, creating interesting glaze effects. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be included in such a great endeavor.”


Artist and bitty-kitty rescuer Shery Polansky recently merged her twin passions into a unique business: CATS Creative Artistic Treasures Studio. Located in Spring Hill, CATS showcases cat-related artwork created by Polansky and about 60 other mostly local artists, while providing support and a free venue for animal rescue-related gatherings and educational programs. 

Polansky credits her husband, Dr. Daniel Polansky, with starting the process. He suggested she rent studio space where she could paint and care for the newborn kittens that have long been a part of their lives. Ironically, Shery admits that little of her work is currently displayed in the shop: “setting up a business and weaning kittens” has limited her painting time.

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“I had hoped to have all cat art, and I’m so pleased that we’ve gotten so much, ” she says. Polansky also wanted to feature local talent. “But when something great comes in the door, I can’t turn it down, ” she continues — indicating numerous works by Don Nedobeck, the nation’s best-known cat artist. He’ll visit the shop on the third Thursday in November, as the month’s featured artist for “Purrsday Thursday.” 


ABOVE LEFT “I am an abstract color field painter. I don't very often use realistic images, but when Sherry said only cats I decided I had better push myself in that direction. As you can see the cat image is obvious but the color and forearm have been pushed to the Point that the painting is really about field of color and yet the subject has not really been abstracted beyond recognition. I have done some other paintings where the image is even more cat like but not cat-color. All this just to see what happens when you push your self artistically and head off in a different direction.” – Gail Rancier Wilson  

ABOVE RIGHT “When my dear friend Shery Polansky opened this beautiful art gallery devoted to her passion for saving cats and kittens, she called on her friends for cat-related art, ” explains Patty Williams, whose acrylic on canvas, Krazy Kat, is pictured above. “CATS Gallery is a wonderful venue for the community and for all the cats that are fortunate enough to be there!”

ABOVE Barbara Hoertz’s intricate designs are built on glass bottles of varying shapes and sizes, using colored, malleable polymer clay. “I then cure them and add lashes, whiskers and a sealer. There is no paint on any of my cats, and no two cats ever turn out the same: they all have their own quirky personality, ” explains the self-taught Foley, AL artist. “When I found out about Sherry and her gallery devoted to cat art and kitten rescue I knew I had to meet her. So I packed up a basket (30) of my bottle cats and headed to Mobile to meet her. All 30 stayed with Sherry in their new home at the CATS Gallery. Needless to say it was a purrfect Union.”

Surprisingly,  Polansky is a relatively new cat fancier. She reached a point in life 10 or 11 years ago where she no longer had to work. “I’m a very spiritual person. And, I don’t shop or sit by the pool and file my nails. So I literally prayed that I’d be useful in some way to have a personally fulfilled life, ” she explains. She decided to try bottle-feeding abandoned kittens with a friend. Offering her services as The Nursing Lady,  Polansky fed, weaned and found homes for some 100 kittens each year.

“It was non-stop. Extreme fatigue and heartache came with it. The first couple of years I probably lost 35 percent because we weren’t sure what we needed to be doing.” Bottle-feeding a hungry and uncooperative kitten isn’t as simple as most people think. 

Her success rate eventually soared to around 95 percent. She realized that if the learning curve had been that steep for her (a nurse who was also a trained, experienced animal tech), other rescuers must be struggling too. She wanted to do something to help them. So CATS offers on-site classes for inexperienced bottle feeders, as well as online tutorials. “I am now affiliated with Valerie Blankenship (director of cattery for Save a Stray Rescue) and Ginger Welch (director of cattery at ARF Animal Rescue Foundation), ” Polansky explains. “I now bottle-feed through those organizations, which are taking over veterinary expenses for the babies. And they will place the kittens once they’re weaned.” 

“At CATS, we are hoping to sell enough art to pay for the building, have fun and host a lot of rescue-related programs, ” says Shery. One of the omnipresent kittens disrupts our conversation by climbing my leg. It becomes more vocal. “She’s giving you the milk cry.” Shery smiles. “Do you want to feed her?” – Text and photos by Adrian Hoff

2. See Spot Win Gold

Drive or sail to Pirates Cove on Oct. 1 for the eighth annual Cove Dog Olympics. Registration starts at 9 a.m. Events range from dock diving to speed hamburger eating, guaranteeing all-day fun for pooches and people alike.

Photo by Angie Carn

3. Who's That Lady?

Lovely Lady in the Lake is a grandiose portable sculpture that often makes her home at Barber Marina in Elberta. When the three sections of floating foam and fiberglass are out on the water, it appears that a beautiful (albeit Godzilla-sized) woman is bathing among the boats. The marina’s owner, George Barber, also an avid art collector, commissioned Virginia sculptor Mark Cline to create the 50-foot figure. His Elberta beauty’s likeness was based on two Hollywood celebs, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones and country music singer Sara Evans. If she stood up, the gal would reach more than 100 feet in the air. Talk about some legs!

Laws of the Land

4. Just say no to stilettos!
Ladies, keep the Manolos in the closet; heels are forbidden on Dauphin Street — unless you have a permit. Why did a city that celebrates an entire season in formal wear adopt such a strange law? Long ago, one woman’s pump got caught in a sidewalk grate. She fell and injured herself. A court case followed. In response the unusual ordinance was imple-mented to prevent future litigation.

5. Hold the confetti and stink balls! 
Controlled substances take on a new meaning. Although tossing plastic necklaces, chocolate-flavored pastries and blinky rubber toys of all kinds are completely permissible, leave the shredded paper and odor bombs at home or risk retribution. Furthermore, it is also illegal to sell, give away or handle confetti or any “other substance similar thereto.” 

6. Thou shalt not bathe in bienville square fountain.
So even if you’ve removed your high heels to avoid breaking that law, don’t even think about rinsing your tootsies in a public fountain. According to Sec. 39-82 of our Municipal Code, “Any person who at any time washes his hands, face or feet in any of the fountains in the city … shall be punished…” If you’re truly in dire need of refreshment, just wait five minutes for the next pop-up shower. You’ll be dirt-free in no time.

7. Notice to all cartoon characters: No throwing banana peels.
This applies to humans, too. Resist the a-peel of tossing your leftovers on an elevator floor or risk the consequences. It is against the law to spit or throw fruit skins of any nature — banana, apple, kumquat or otherwise —  in any public facility, including halls, theaters, parks, sidewalks, elevators, etcetera through-out the Port City. 

8. King of the Storybook Castle

Most folks who frequent Fairhope are familiar with the town’s quirky story-book castle home. But did you know the guy who built it, Craig Sheldon, is the same artist responsible for the bold-hued, whimsically painted pelican sculptures that soar around the utopian town?

Environmental activist, accomplished wood carver and all-around colorful character, Sheldon created a fantastical home for himself and his family, complete with turrets, a moat, a footbridge and cobblestone siding with found objects, such as bottles, horseshoes and trinkets, embedded in the mortar. Sheldon’s daughter Pagan, a professional dancer, and her husband Dean Mosher, an artist and historian, later “castle-ized” the cottage next door. 

In 2007, in honor of Sheldon, the local Committee on Public Art used his pelican sculpture as the basis for its Art Takes Flight fundraiser, in which local artists painted ceramic models of the statue’s likeness in their own unique interpretations and auctioned them off to the public. 

Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau


9. Advice for peanuts

Whoever said a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to has never been to the Friendly Advice Booth at Latte Da Coffee Shop inside Page and Palette. For just a nickel, Sonya Bennett and Nancye Jennings will give advice on any topic at their makeshift booth. (“Except on money, the stock market or horse races, ” Sonya says.) The Fairhope duo has 140 years of life experience between the two of them. As Nancye jokingly likes to tell people, “Sonya’s 100 and I’m 40.”

The two started the advice booth three years ago in coordination with Page and Palette, and since then it has taken on a life of its own. “We have regulars!” Sonya says. The women dispense a lot of relationship advice and say that, surprisingly, they see more men than women. “This has made us fall in love with our community even more, ” Sonya says. “We feel that Page and Palette is the soul of Fairhope, and we’re the heartbeat.”

The Friendly Advice Booth is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.


Photo by Aaron Croomes

10. Roadkill Jewelry

How does Ally Clements describe her artwork? “I make jewelry from the bones of roadkill that I collect and process myself, ” she says. “The question I usually get after saying that is, ‘What?!’”

Needless to say, Clements has a strong stomach. “When I started, the whole process did bother me. I held my breath a lot.” But it’s important to her that the bones she uses are ethically sourced. With roadkill, she knows where the bones come from. 

The jewelry (mostly necklaces, rings and recently bolo ties) are for sale on Etsy at Barely Bones Boutique. You can also find Clements selling her merchandise at the Merry Widow on the last Wednesday of every month or at ArtWalk the second Friday of every month (set up in front of Gallery 450). 

11. I Smell a Delta Rat

Spanish for “rodent, ” the word nutria has taken on another definition: a furry 20-pound Alabama swamp critter. This web-footed mammal with the head of a beaver and tail of a rat was brought to the Gulf Coast from Argentina in hopes of marketing its fur. Rumor has it that a hurricane in 1941 scattered a contained colony of the animals far and wide, and the nutria was officially out of the bag.

In an effort to curb the rodent’s destructive appetite (the species devoured Delta marshland in the 1960s), the Mobile County Wildlife and Conservation Association began a yearly hunt — the Nutria Rodeo. Hunters used fires and dogs to flush the nutria out of the swamp before shooting them from their boats. The hunt was concluded at Traders on the Causeway, where a Nutria Queen, clad in fur pelts, was crowned each year. Although eventually shut down by animal activist groups, the Nutria Rodeo is without a doubt one of the wackiest throwdowns in Mobile history.

12. Even our fish are crazy

On the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, from Daphne to Mullet Point, a rare phenomenon occurs on the occasional warm summer night. In just the precise weather conditions, oxygen levels deplete in the brackish water, forcing a plethora of fish, crabs and shrimp to swarm to the sandy banks. The locals quickly activate the telephone tree, sharing the news with their neighbors, “JUBILEE!” Still pajama clad, they grab their nets and head to the beach to scoop up heaps of fresh seafood. The numbers are astounding! And what’s even crazier about the whole spectacle is that there’s only one other place on the planet that has recorded such an event. Jubilees happen on exactly the opposite side of the globe along Tokyo Bay in Japan.

Weird Parties

13. Polar Bear Dip
The annual plunge into the Gulf of Mexico takes place on New Year’s Day at high noon at such establishments as the Flora-Bama and the Hangout. Expect black-eyed peas, goose bumps and costumes. A recent dipper, sporting a wedding dress, was asked if she had just gotten married. “Nope!” she replied excitedly. “Divorced!”

14. Santa Drop
A special guest drops in at this Flora-Bama holiday party — literally. A skydiving St. Nick lands on the beach to cheers and bushwackers because … well, why not?!

15. Mullet Toss
What’s not to love about a shindig with a stinky fish throwing contest, plenty of air-brushed T-shirts and boatloads of piña coladas?

16. Joe Cain’s Grave
Only Mobilians can party over a grave and get away with it. Joe Cain’s Merry Widows, in black dresses and veils, howl and wail over his burial site on the morning of the Joe Cain Parade. The bereft women will then suddenly break into a dance and celebration, tossing coins and black beads to the crowd that gathers for the spectacle every year.

As if you need any more encouragement, look a few feet away at Eugene Walter’s tombstone, which cheerily reads, “If all else fails, throw a party.”

Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

17. Aloha from Theodore

Shave Ice 101: It is “shave, ” not “shaved” ice. Authentic shave ice is a Hawaiian delicacy, and the gift of the 50th state is available on Old Pascagoula Road in Theodore. Ask for the pickle-flavored one in the tsunami size.

“Customers want to try it, ” LuLani’s Shave Ice and Dog House co-owner Paula Lee shares. It is hard to miss. Weighing in at 4 pounds, the frozen concoction is larger than a human head. As for the pickle version, LuLani’s does not advertise it, but everyone in Theodore knows about it. 

For even more pizzazz, the popular pickle proprietors will spray the frigid green mountain with a sour enhancer, adding yet more thrill to the dill. Or, you can tone it down a bit with a slather of blueberry juice rendering, “the Blue Pickle.” Then, there is the snowcap version, because a bowling ball-sized pickle shave ice cone is even better with ice cream on top. – Emmett Burnett


18. Hair Today, Art Tomorrow

Lucy Gafford’s talent is nothing short of hair-raising. This fun-loving artist creates in a myriad of media, but her most prolific series is certainly one-of-a-kind. Lucy Gafford works in locks — that wad of goopy strands that collect on the shower floor. She uses those remnants to illustrate everything from bouquets of flowers to presidential candidates on a damp shower wall. She then posts her designs on social media for the world to see: #showerhairmasterpiece

“It started when my husband was out of town for a few weeks and I had too much time on my hands. While I was showering, I noticed my hair on the wall looked a lot like a squirrel. I moved it around and made one, then posted a picture on Twitter. People seemed excited. So days later, it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I did a portrait of him to see how detailed I could get with the shower hair medium — and because MLK is the man. I posted it on Facebook and had a massively positive response. Since then, I’ve kept it up as a regular drawing exercise and have continued to make more challenging pictures as I progress.” 

Since January of 2014, Gafford has built an online portfolio of more than 385 pieces. “So far, my most popular has been Prince on Facebook and Hank Hill on Twitter.” Although detailed works can take up to an hour to complete, the simpler designs can be created, photographed and in the trash in a matter of 15 minutes. Gafford claims that it’s actually quite therapeutic to create art in a steam-filled room with found materials.

“I’ve had many people tell me that they are my best work, which cracks me up since I majored in painting and sculpture and have had my hands in a lot of projects around Mobile in many different mediums, ” she laughs. “Maybe it is the best? It’s definitely the weirdest.”

19. Priest

Described as both a nuisance and a hero (depending on who you’re talking to), Mobile’s very own graffiti artist, Priest, has been making waves in the Port City and beyond. (In fact, it was rumored that the Downtown Alliance once offered a $100 reward for Priest’s true identity, but this has been denied.) If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon his renegade artwork, whether on a wall, boat or on the street itself, soak it up while you can. Chances are it won’t be there the next day.

20. Coast Ghosts

A city as old as Mobile is sure to have a few residents stick around beyond their expiration dates. People love stories of haunted houses and spirits engaging with the corporeal world, and Mobile has no shortage. “Mobile is probably as haunted as New Orleans or St. Augustine, ” Old South Paranormal founder Cheryl Cash reveals. “The city is just starting to really be proud of it, though.” She’s investigated paranormal activity at the Battle House Hotel, the Malaga Inn, the DAR house and more.  

Cash explains that most hauntings are “layered” over each other; for instance, the oldest hauntings around are actually the land itself, haunted by Native American spirits. Some notable hauntings? A house in Semmes repeatedly had trees cut down by spirits, so Cash advised the homeowner to plant some fruit trees to appease them. Homeowners in Evergreen kept finding holes in the yard and downed trees, as well.  

Most hauntings around Mobile are friendly “Caspers, ” as Cash calls them: Captain Richards in the DAR House (who apparently has quite a fondness for Cash), a local grandfather at the Daphne Museum and Cemetery, a spirit at the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion (where Cash’s cousin was locked in the attic by the ghost … no worries, it was all in good fun) and many others. 

Then there’s the story of the marbles at the DAR house: “We took some antique marbles to the DAR house and put them on the bed. We told the spirits of the children, ‘If you move the marbles, you can keep them.’ Now I’ve got 10 pounds of marbles in my car – we’ve got to keep those children supplied! People find marbles all over that house.”

If you need to see it to believe it, join Old South Paranormal at their fundraiser on October 22 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Richards DAR house. Tickets are $30, and guests can learn about paranormal activity and even go ghost hunting with Cash’s specialist team.

21. What's in a Name?

If you think the characters down in Mobile are crazy, just wait until you learn their names. (The MB staff alone has a Breckenridge, a Parrot, a Lawren and a Jocko.) For whatever reason, it seems this funny little place we call home attracts some unique appellations, and no one knows this better than Mobilian Plumer Tonsmeire.

Plumer (pronounced like the repair man) was riding in a car with his buddies, Pepper Roney and Wagon Whigham, when he was pulled over for having a busted out taillight. The officer asked for all the boys’ names, and they respectfully answered. The boys were accused of being smart alecks until producing their IDs, which no doubt further confused the befuddled law enforcement officer.

22. Uncle Henry

“Don’t let my toupee and thrift store fashion sense fool you: I assure everyone that I am a serious political and cultural opinion-maker that can ‘power wash the stupidity off of anyone, ’ and I truly believe that my show and most of my devoted listeners can save this country, one call at a time.” – Radio star, Uncle Henry

Come As You Aren't

Mobilians know costumes aren’t just for kids. Let loose and explore your alter egos at these events that allow grownups to play dress-up all year long. 

23. Zombie Walk
Organized by Mobicon, Zombie Walk, above, brings undead enthusiasts together for a parade around Downtown Mobile. Visit “Mobicon Zombie Walk” on Facebook to stay up-to-date on this year’s event, Zombie Fest, scheduled for October. 

24. Rocky Horror Show
Go incognito as Riff Raff, Magenta, Rocky or Frankenfurter for a night full of raunchy jokes and musical mayhem. Get tickets online at crescenttheater.com, and visit the “Mystic Society of Rocky Horror” on Facebook for dates

25. Elvispalooza
Celebrate the King at Veets on Royal Street. Break out your best bedazzled jumpsuit for their annual costume contest and dance the night away. If you’re feeling particularly creative, take the “King” theme to the extreme and come as Tut, Macbeth or Chicken a la.    

26. Woofstock
This festival for all things canine lets your beloved pet suit up, too! Head over to Bienville Square on October 23 to partake in the festivities. Visit woofstockmobile.com for a schedule of events.

text by chelsea wallace adams, lawren largue and breck pappas

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