There are many blessings to painting in Northeastern NC. There is a big sky over sandy soil and vibrant water, and all of these things play with the light. There is a noble–and quirky–built environment, rich in handwork. And there are people, both resident and visiting, who value these things.
At the Cupola House benefit mentioned in the last post, I met many who are alive to the beauty of this part of the world. Many thanks to the Cupola House Association and my patrons.
And thanks, too, to those who brought me vulture quills from St. Paul’s churchyard while I was painting there.
“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.