Category: culture

WildArt I

I’m putting a Roman numeral after the title because I hope we can do it again next year. Good times and lots of money raised for the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge.  Bye the way, if anyone has 10 acres or so to donate for their wildlife rehab facility, look them up: you can write it off: http://www.appalachianwild.org/donate.html.

afrows

From the after-event press release:

Asheville, North Carolina – The inaugural Wild Art event held Saturday August 6, 2016 raised funds and friends to help native wildlife thanks to support from regional artists, Addison Farms Vineyard, dedicated volunteers and the community. Guests enjoyed meeting with artists to learn about their work created at the vineyard and other pieces inspired by nature. Artist Tony Corbitt was set up next to the Animal Ambassador tent during the event and painted the visiting Eastern Screech Owl from the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Banner Elk.

The event was a fundraiser and outreach opportunity for the nonprofit Appalachian Wildlife Refuge working to open a facility to help injured and orphaned wildlife. “We are so thankful to John Mac Kah, Paul Blankinship and all the other artists that attended and donated a portion of the art sales to Appalachian Wild,” shared President and Co-Founder Kimberly Brewster. The nonprofit also held a raffle and had items available for purchase that raised over $1,500.

Nb, the baby robin spotted on the ground by gimlet-eyed fellow Saint of Paint, Dana Irwin. As he was too young to fly, he was returned to his nest instantly.

robin

I asked how common it was for robins to breed this late in the year and was told by a show attendee, “if it required permission, wouldn’t none of us be here.”

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Row on row

These are rows of grapes at the Addison Farms vineyard, whose owner, Jeff Frisbee has been kind enough to host  Wild Art 2016: the Art Show to Benefit Appalachian Wildlife Refuge on August 6 from 12noon to 5pm.  It all happens at 4005 New Leicester Highway, 15 minutes and a whole world northwest of Asheville, NCafrows

For some annual crops, at least, we shall see the row system, maybe even tillage itself, vanish in our lifetimes.  And good riddance, too.

Perennial crops, though, are another matter.  Since the earliest gardens in the Near East, rows and compass points have predominated.  There is something intrinsically reverent and hopeful about the conjunction of geometry, next year and fruit.

Where these things intersect, you can have a culture, because culture demands that someone see life on the side of order and not chaos.

addison01

The Vineyard.  Walnut ink on prepared paper.

Agriculture, culture, cult: these three perdure.

Down East

Change at a break-neck pace.

In Pasquotank County, they’re getting a wind farm.  In Perquimans County, I heard they changed the name of Hog Alley to something-or-other Road, and they even paved it over: “I mean, you wouldn’t know it to look at it.”

Across the river in Bertie County, they still operate a cable ferry between Sans Souci and Woodard, although “they” aren’t who you think they are.  “They” in this case is not the ferry authority, but another part of the Department of Transportation that runs inland ferries.

One of the last two cable ferries in North Carolina.  The other is here.

One of the last two cable ferries in North Carolina. The other is here.

In small communities, or even suburbs without a dense urban plant, “they” are busy people.  People whose actions you see but whose faces you don’t.  That’s why “they” seldom earn our trust.

That said, I confess to a certain fondness for “them,” provided they leave things behind.  Children’s building-block edifices are charming; in a more solemn but no less poignant way are the remains of the dead, left where they did the work that sustained them.  Like these houses:

Nineteenth-century farmhouse in norther Chowan County.  Oil on paper.  12 x 16in.

Nineteenth-century farmhouse in northern Chowan County. Oil on paper. 12 x 16in.

Burnt-out house in northern Chowan County.  Oil on paper. 12 x 16in.

Burnt-out house in northern Chowan County. Oil on paper. 12 x 16in.

Even the gratuitous hand-work is telling.  Like the “V” for the more usual “U” in the Perquimans County High School facade. Someone made that decision about lettering to give an air of Latinate dignity to poor students in an overlooked part of the world.  It was put there before someone decided to abandon the world of learning and human children and masonry for that of information, human resources, and trailers.

File photo from WAVY10, a Hampton Roads area television station.

File photo from WAVY10, a Hampton Roads area television station.

 

 

Places in-between 1: The Coggins Farm

When most people think of countryside, they think of wilderness because it offers an escape from suburban sprawl.  Somewhere in the American landscape there remains a wilderness for us if we could but outrun the tacky sameness that our cities disgorge.

There is, though, another countryside, just as rare, and far more overlooked.  It is composed of small-holdings, and it is vanishing.  Before the Wild West, there was the West of Thomas Jefferson’s America, which began at the Eastern Continental Divide.  The farms founded before industry changed the scale of agriculture were incredibly diverse places.  Here is one such:

Pastures and oaks at the Coggins Farm

Pastures and oaks at the Coggins Farm

In practice, each farm was like a little world, producing meat, dairy, plants, and fuel, as well as harboring fish, game, honey, stone and wild fowl.

I was lucky enough to spend the day painting at the Coggins Farm east of Asheville, NC. Not currently productive, the place is currently the center of local controversy over its future.  You can read about it here, on the website of an enterprise to reconnect the land to its original developer’s purpose of long-term provision.

Taking advantage of the view above.

Taking advantage of the view above.

It’s a treat to stand where such a variety of work was once done by hand.

The bottom half on an oil painting.  This is wet oil paint on paper treated with natural gesso, photographed in the shade.

The bottom half on an oil painting. This is wet oil paint on paper treated with natural gesso, photographed in the shade.

Benefit show: “The Pathless Woods” at Alchemy Fine Art, Asheville, NC, February 29

I’ll be contributing a handful of pictures to a show for the Asheville Humane Society, whose title, if you remember your 12th-grade English Literature class, comes from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal. –from Canto iv.

The show’s page on Alchemy’s site features images of animals and landscape: some quadrupeds, a skull, found objects put into still lives, as well as tilled fields.  I’m thinking of adding some dog and wolf studies, and a painting of some chickens.

Wolf. Sanguine chalk.

Wolf. Sanguine chalk.

The show’s title got me thinking.  It’s hard to gain access to really wild things. Human influence is everywhere.  Even the wolf shown here is as incapable of survival in the wild as a typical laying hen.   That’s a basic problem with Romanticism: whether or not you love the wilderness, you can’t get there from here, as Byron, on the run from industrial England, knew all too well. There is an unintended human presence in what we hairless bipeds regard as “pathless.”

Even if you could escape civilization and dwell in unspoiled wilderness, you’d have some explaining to do.  Byron’s words might help: “I love not man the less but Nature more.”  Somehow, Nature–whatever that is–is supposed to be more capable of love than human beings.  For Americans, whose history is a series of overcoming wilderness, that is problematic; if we are busily spoiling nature, where is our love supposed to go?

Without an appropriate receptacle for our love, we find it easy as well as common to heap love on anything that is “natural,” as our buying habits disclose.  It is easier to fetishize unkempt things than to admit the absence of wild things.  As the biography of any teenager will show you, love out of proportion is a growth pain, not growth.

Tree Lines. Oil on linen on panel

Tree Lines. Oil on linen on panel. 16 x 22″ Does the sender of the letter love man the less or nature more?

For that reason alone, honesty in landscape painting matters, especially when it is honest enough to treat small things, like individual animals, trees and structures.  Painting and collecting their images are acts of stewardship and devotion, and they give wholesome enjoyment.  They are worth doing because they remind us that culture begins in path-making and that, however we may dream of trackless places, to enter them is to blaze a trail

Wide Open preview 6: swept and garnished

The show had a happy and buzzing opening night at the Chowan Arts Council, whose volunteers pulled long hours hanging art and laying out a spread of refreshments.  People from four counties, two states and three generations enjoyed themselves, which pleased me.  Two people told me how the scene below resembled places they know.  Then they told me about the people, alive as well as dead and buried, in their own places.

field betwen crops

Gates County. 12 x 16.” oil on linen on panel

The last time I counted, Gates County, NC has five stop lights.  It might have six now, but I wouldn’t know because I’m happy with that number.

This scene is not far from the Dismal Swamp, featured in my last post and offers a different sense of lush potential.  This is a field resting between crops when the trees are green.  The ground is not finished–just taking a breather.  Look at those leaves, and you can hear the earth boast, “see what I can do.”

Civilization depends upon this sort of readiness.  How we meet it is important.  When I was a child, fields like this were visited every week or so by the poor, who were paid at the end of the day to tend them.  Even then, their jobs were losing out to machines.

Currently, there is a conspicuous absence of people outdoors here.  I painted this scene in July, and drove by it again just this November.  There were more people visible in November.  Even the autumnal head count is down as deer hunting with packs of dogs–a social activity-has given way to sitting alone in a tree stand and waiting for the quarry to walk by.  I don’t know what that means, but it merits reflection.

Of Time and the River, redux

The hardworking folks at Riverlink hope to do another show next year, and I’m grateful.

A motivated crowd is a good thing for artists and art lovers alike, but not for the reasons you’re thinking.

Here’s how:  because people came willing to pitch in for a charity they believe in, they showed up generous.  That’s a good attitude to have when looking at art.

People respond to beauty in much the same way as they respond to goodness.  They might be hungry–even starving–for it, but they can’t just sit passively and soak it in.  Both ideal things require one to go out of oneself, to take a moral or sensory leap as the case may be.

I’m grateful for two more reasons.  First, the folks at Riverlink have been leading the cleanup efforts along the river where I learned to draw the landscape.  The first landscape I ever sold was a view of Ledges Park.  Second, I got an education in North Carolina history and culture from those who attended.  Turn up next year, and enjoy the party as well as the show.

Mill Shoals Falls

Mill Shoals on the French Broad River