Of Time and the River

Thus the allusive title of a late October group show for the  benefit of Riverlink, the Asheville non-profit that does so much for the health of the French Broad River.  It will be hosted by Alchemy Fine Art at Walnut and Rankin Streets in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

The French Broad is narrow, winding and unnavigable for most of its length, and therein lies its charm.  Unlike its better-known and larger brethren such as the Delaware, James and Mississippi, it unites geography but divides people.  You can follow the James along US 60 in Virginia from Hampton Roads to Scottsville in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the people all along your route speak with the same Tidewater accent.  Centuries of reliable transport has united them.

Try the same thing from the mouth of the French Broad at Knoxville, Tennessee to its source near Rosman, North Carolina, and you’ll have a widely different experience.  You’ll be in the car all day.  You’ll drive on Federal, State and County roads, many of them dirt and gravel.  The sweetness of East Tennessee speech gives way to the sour note of Western North Carolina.  The churches go from Baptist to Pentecostal to Baptist again. And seeing the river will involve walking.

For two hundred and more years, anyone travelling any distance was concerned to get across the French Broad rather than up and down it. It was hard. That goes double for those with baggage, horses or automobiles–or, in my case, an easel, paints and lunch.

The bridge in the oil painting below is a triumph all the more impressive when one recalls that people actually died crossing this river in private ferries as late at the 1940’s. Underneath it settles the graffiti-covered tobacco warehouse in the ink drawing, itself a little monument to works and days now gone, as vice gives way to vice between watery death and sunny achievement.

Bowen Bridge

The Bowen Bridge, carrying I-240 across the hundred-foot wide French Broad River into downtown Asheville–and the large gorge it cuts. I’m in the space dugout to catch floodwater, and the river is behind me over the berm.

Many of the better views of the river are lost to public memory or overlooked.  And that’s a shame.  Degas famously said, “Art isn’t what one sees; it’s what one makes others see.”  Art can make you remember, too; or question a hole in your memory.  The next few posts will feature some of these overlooked places, which are no less beautiful for that.

Visit Riverlink’s website here.  They haven’t forgotten the river.

River District Warehouse, Asheville.  Walnut ink

River District Warehouse, Asheville. Walnut ink

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s