Linda Cobb’s parents uprooted her from her Louisville home when she was 14. As with most adolescents, she was angry and sad.
The fact that she ended up in California as a successful fashion editor and wife of Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, never erased a longing for her roots.
“Kentucky was a home I was abruptly yanked away from,” she says, “so I’m sure there’s a lot of unfinished emotional business there. And I guess I’m tackling that now, with a vengeance.”
Her mother told her the destination was Hollywood, certain that that would dull the pain of the move. But not so much. “No teenager wants to be taken away from home,” she says. “I think the notion of Hollywood was attractive to my mom. She always loved film and movie stars. But it wasn’t my dream.”
Her dream life, it turned out, has been having the opportunity to get back to those roots. “There’s something about Kentucky,” she says. “It’s still, in many ways, the Kentucky I left behind all those years ago. Fulfilling for somebody who had those unrequited dreams of going back.”
Her journey home has taken two forms. One is the 200-year-old farm in Bloomfield (Nelson County) that she and her husband bought and restored. She says they spend about 20 percent of every year back here. The home is called Walnut Groves Farm, and it’s on the historic registry.
The other is the photography she relentlessly shoots as she travels around the commonwealth, often from the seat of a car – sometimes from the driver’s seat. That is the collection – called “Family Gathering: Linda Bruckheimer’s Kentucky” – currently on exhibit at the Frazier Kentucky History Museum.
The pictures represent anything that grabs her interest. It could be a tree, or a sign, or a gathering of people. “There’s no particular theme to this,” says Bruckheimer. “When I put the exhibit together, it’s like body parts. And each one becomes a piece of a mosaic. Put them all together, and you get a pretty good idea of what Kentucky’s all about.”
What’s Kentucky all about?
“I think it’s about individuality, it’s about character, it’s about things that are important here – family, church, farming, human values. In some ways, it’s not a very complicated place on the surface, in other ways extremely complex. A Kentuckian is a Kentuckian, unambiguously, it’s how they identify themselves, it’s what important to them. So many people who’ve left want to go home. Like me.”
She cites the Happy Chandler quote: “I never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t on his way home.”
That was the theme of her two novels, Dreaming Southern, about a family who leaves Kentucky to go west; and The Southern Belles of Honeysuckle Way, about the family’s return to Kentucky to celebrate a matriarch’s birthday.
Leaving. And returning.
“I was flying by the seat of my pants in terms of moving back to Kentucky,” she says. “It started out as intermittent trips to see my grandmother in Louisville. I’d take little day trips around the countryside, and one day I saw a sign for a house for sale. I called a realtor and suddenly thought to myself, ‘Wait a minute, am I actually looking for a house in Kentucky?’”
Turned out she was. So, she looked some more, and found Walnut Groves – which was not for sale. “I made them an offer that they did refuse, but eventually we were able to buy it.”
It was built in 1820. “That right there is the difference in cultures,” she says. “In California, if we have a house built in 1920, it’s something of a relic. And often torn down.”
Her pictures are largely rural themes. “That’s so different from the life I live here,” she says. “When you’re driving down the street in Los Angeles, you never see a huge sign that says, ‘Go to church or the devil will get you!’”
Bruckheimers’s exhibit at the Frazier, 829 W. Main St., opened in October and will run until Jan. 12, 2018.