Tagged: Asheville

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.

In Good Company

“The Pathless Woods,” the show of animal studies and landscapes to benefit The Asheville Humane Society, is now online.  I’m gratified to see my work next to that of some fine painters. You can view the show here:


Toby Elliott's Chickens

Lawn Chickens. Oil on panel. 8 x 12″

The Second Annual “Of Time and the River” Show

Thanks to some top-notch initiative at Riverlink and among the contributing artists, we’re doing it again; this year the show will be at the same location overlooking the French Broad River in Asheville.  Dates are Thursday, Oct. 22 through Sunday, Oct. 25. The opening will be a ticketed affair, with catering, music and a showing of river artefacts.

Mill Shoals Falls

Mill Shoals on the French Broad River, in Transylvania County, NC, near the river’s rise.

The show’s website features bios on contributing artists and a blog with news of their exploits.  The French Broad has many moods and promises another year of beauty. It’s cold in the mountains of North Carolina and lazy in the foothills of Tennessee.  It has witnessed boom and bust flows past real estate booms and ghost towns.  It has been victim to ecological defilement and nursery for rebirth. Check the show’s blog for scenery and story, and see the show in October.  And if you buy a painting of the French Broad featured on this site, I’ll give a third of the price to Riverlink, the non-profit that has done so much to nurture the river that makes the region.  Just use the Contact link for a quote; price includes framing and shipping.

The French Broad widening out in Tennessee, just above the town of Leadvale.

The French Broad widening out in Tennessee, just above the town of Leadvale.

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

Of Time and the River

That’s the eponymous title of the benefit art show for Riverlink, the non-profit that has cleaned up and made accessible the French Broad River near Asheville.  The French Broad is the third oldest river in the world, it flows north, and its beauty has been neatly reduced to little rectangles and hung on walls.

The French Broad River, Hamblen County, Tennessee.

The French Broad River, Hamblen County, Tennessee.

A ticketed event opens the show on October 23rd at Sol’s Retreat, overlooking said river above the New Belgium site. Free public viewing, albeit without live music and bottomless gluttony are available the following two days, 11am-6pm.

Bowen Bridge

The show takes place just uphill from where I’m standing. This is in the flood plain of the French Broad under the Bowen Bridge in West Asheville. Downtown is over my shoulder.

You can sample works by some of the exhibitors here.  Many are my teachers, and I’m pleased to show my work next to theirs.

Small bites, September 25, 5-7 pm

The Windsor Boutique Hotel at 36 Broadway in downtown Asheville is presenting me along with two other painters in its next “Art at the Windsor” series.  In addition to art in the lobby, there are three floors of realist paintings as well as a few abstracts.

Kudos to the Windsor for assembling a group of a dozen or so realist painters.  Precious few galleries show such a belief in art that depicts actual things.

Check out the hotel’s teaser here:  http://www.windsorasheville.com/blog/

Long gone

Long Gone. 18 x 24″

The painting above will be there, as well as some that are not featured on this site; for lovers of fine drawings, a large-format crispy autumn scene with ten botanically accurate tree species and a three-hundred yard depth of field, executed in walnut ink without brushes on a frosty November morning.  Yum.

Oh, and the chocolates at these functions are swell, too.

Art takes wing

Through August, patrons may view and purchase my art at the Asheville Regional Airport.  Now is your chance to take home a piece of North Carolina.

Patrons may purchase art by emailing art@flyavl.com or visiting the Airport’s art page:



The Trading Post, Edneyville.  8 x 13.5"

The Trading Post, Edneyville. 8 x 13.5″

Tomato 'Costoluto'

Tomato ‘Costoluto.’ 6 x 6″

Sharecropper's House

Sharecropper’s House . 8 x 9″



Paris of the South–really

The owners of the newly restored Windsor Boutique Hotel in Asheville are showing my art in the hotel’s public spaces.  You can see some of North Carolina’s oft-overlooked beauty on its walls.

The hotel sits in the heart of downtown and is a quick walk from restaurants, bars, shopping, festivals, etc.  The building itself wears its old fabric gracefully and positively gleams with old wood.  http://www.windsorasheville.com/

Hanging alongside my work is that of Alisa Lumbreras, about the hardest-working artist I know.  She paints and sculpts with joy.  You can see some of that joy here: http://www.cottonmillstudiosnc.com/young-artists-classes.html

I’m grateful to the owners and staff for choosing me and my fellow Ashevilleans.  There is a difference between airlifiting a load of imported culture onto a city and letting the city produce its own culture, and the folks at the Windsor have chosen the better course.