Even polished tires set off with chrome-spiked wheel covers can't beat Denise Camp's wheels for street-side beauty. She turns these rubber castoffs into canvases for her unique artwork.
Camp, 45 and disabled, lives with her caregiver, Vera McKenzie, 57, on St. Francis Street. Her artwork has helped to brighten up their south Brooksville neighborhood.
Camp said she has pursued artistic works since she was a child growing up in foster homes in and around Akron, Ohio. "It kept my mind off things," she said.
At about age 8, she fell through a set of bleachers, injuring her back. But none of her foster parents through the years sought medical attention for her, said Camp, who came to Hernando County at age 12.
Her injuries caught up with her after she was hurt on the job as a cook and kitchen worker in 1998 in Hernando County. In 2000, she was determined by physicians to be disabled.
So, she pursued her artistic ways.
"She has a gift, a talent the Lord has given her," said McKenzie.
Using acrylics, Camp started off painting murals of palm trees on home exterior walls. She then moved inside and painted SpongeBob and Care Bears characters in children's bedrooms. Palm trees emerged on bathroom walls, along with pelicans and other wading birds.
Neighbors stopped by and asked McKenzie who did the artwork on the house. Soon, the self-taught artist began picking up small commissions, even painting signs, such as for a local church.
"It's something I can sit down and do," Camp explained. She can't stand for long periods or even sit for two hours, so her artwork takes time.
The painted tire endeavor is unique.
Camp first paints an ivory-colored layer onto the roadside castoffs her friends gather for her. Then she selects a theme for each tire, which is placed upright and embedded about a third in the ground.
The art includes palms on one, dolphins playing in the sea on another, a fishing boat on the water on the next, an open Bible on the next. With two sides to emblazon, Camp has white hands on one side holding a Bible, and black hands opened to the Bible on the other side.
Camp is Caucasian and McKenzie is African-American. "No prejudice here," Camp declared.
Camp paints free-form, without drawing first.
She hasn't sold any of the handful of painted tires yet, but she and McKenzie are hoping to beautify more of south Brooksville with inexpensive art.
Said McKenzie, "Just because we're poor doesn't mean we don't care."
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.