Clovis artist demonstrated natural talent

By Don McAlavy: CNJ columnist

Miss Orpha Appleman, a little, gray-haired lady with a shy voice, was one of Clovis’ most prolific, creative artist.

She was originally from Butler County, Kan. Her father moved the present house (located at 922 Wallace) to Clovis when Clovis was first founded.

We are indebted to the late Kathryn Henry for the following tribute to Miss Appleman, which was taken from an article that Kathryn wrote for the Clovis News Journal in 1947. (It was Phyllis Kilmer, who in 1978, asked us to not forget to put Miss Appleman’s story in the Curry County History book. Phyllis had taken lessons from her).

“Miss Appleman studied music at the Conservatory of Music in Chicago. She was a very talented pianist, serving as pianist of the First Presbyterian Church in Clovis. She taught music for many years in Clovis,” Henry wrote.

“The only training she had for art was a commercial designing course which she started by correspondence. This she had to terminate due to the ill health of her mother. She developed her own technique through the trial and error method.

“She did not specialize in any certain type of art. She painted florals, portraits, landscapes, and pastels. She painted on conventional material, oilcloth, velvet, and black silk. It was difficult to decide which she did best. Her work shows amazing fidelity to the original and reveals a capacity for infinite patience that was unbelievable.

“She saw beauty in many things that the unartistic pass by without a glance, namely: in the play of shadows on trees across the street, in the way light falls on a row of houses she saw from her window, on a grouping of simple flowers growing in her yard, and in the austere lines of adobe huts and Indian pueblos.

“She was very modest about her work and did not consider it remarkable that she was able to forego music and translate her talent to another medium of expression,” Henry wrote.

Appleman lived in her home in Clovis for about 45 years. Then her niece took her to Odessa, Texas, to live with her kinfolks.

Orpha’s mother passed away at 922 Wallace in late 1927. She never let anyone care for her mother for fear they would not be this kind and considerate. Her sister, Mrs. George Roach, preceded her in death around 1960.

We all lost a great person when Miss Appleman departed from this life in 1963.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: