But of course I did take my camera. It helps me meander. Photography stops me in my tracks to notice. Here are some of the things I noticed.
I do not read much poetry. I remember virtually none. But somewhere in my head there is one poem, heard in my teenage years, that is always with me. Back then, I found it touched my soul, and I still find that "oft, when on my couch I lie, In vacant or in pensive mood" this poem and days like today come to mind.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
Before moving to C’ville, my subject matter was mostly barns, cows, birds, flowers, snow, and sunsets. They were in abundance around our home in Wisconsin. Since moving to Charlottesville my surroundings have become urban and human! We live a block off the downtown pedestrian mall, and prior to Covid, it was a happening place; and the shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and many outdoor concerts and buskers were my muses.
This past week our photo class assignment was street photography. I haven’t done much in the last year, because of distancing, closed businesses, cancelled entertainment, and masks. Things are loosening up and with the coming of spring came the people. So yesterday I went out and stretched my street muscles.
Many people question the legality and validity of street photography. Here is a link that explains some of the issues, but I also use my own rules when photographing people. I am hoping to celebrate the human condition. I am not a journalist who is trying to make a statement about policy or plight, but rather a mirror to catch glimpses of the wonderments around us. So I try to be kind with my photography. The captions I have included with these photos further explain my thoughts. Enjoy, and click on any photo to see a larger version.
The photo on the left is more about the bricks and the smoke than the person. I love the way he is almost a silouette against the bricks.
I took these two photos to show that "street" isn't always "faces". I shoot people from the back often. These two young women were just delightful, and this shot portrayed their movement and closeness much better than the one I took from the front. On the right photo, I was watching the humans interact, when I finally noticed how the canines were interacting. Their "conversation" was more interesting than the human one!
I took about 25 pictures of this couple. I couldn't hear a word they were saying, but it was evident they were totally enthralled with each other and in their own world. If I were a writer I would have written a short story about them. These photos are almost more portrait than "street". I really lucked out on the lighting and with the dark bar behind her face that really added contrast. I am including more of these shots below because they are just too fun. The center one is when a little girl outside the coffee shop also spied them and knocked on the window to wave!
This last photo is also at the coffee shop; And while the couple was animated, this person was serene and solo.
I don't get too many days to wander in the snow here in C'ville... but today was one of them, check these out!!
I have always loved driving or walking at night and seeing frames vignettes formed by light and window panes. There is a serenity in those light portals, bright against the dark of the night. Often the hues emanating give me a hint of the activity within; The cold blue light of a computer screen, the fast flicker of the TV, maybe twinkles of some Christmas lights someone couldn’t put away yet. No, I am not a peeping tom, just an admirer of the human condition!
Being in the heart of the city, I have found it so easy to go out and explore under the golden glow of whatever lights illuminate the streets. The contrast of that warmth and the neon or fluorescent lights of the businesses are a play of color that never ceases to entertain me. It is also the chance to see much of the “back of the house” work that I don’t see in the daylight. The kitchens of the restaurants become visible at night.
The other thing about windows is I see three dimensions at once: what is inside the portal; the window glass itself; and then what is outside the window in the reflection or environment. The view changes when I change my focus or that of my camera.
So it is much the same as the multi dimensions of my fiber art.
I expose the hidden layer of fabric through slashing, I have the base layer and then layer with fabric or stitch over that. Some of my work is about the previously hidden layer, some about the photo layer, and some about those layers of transparency with stitch added on top.
This week, my photo class assignment is “windows”. So I dutifully have been haunting the streets - day and night - to fulfill this assignment. Here is a slide show of some of my favorites:
And then today, there were the windows at the car wash!!
"A line in the sand."
"The line starts/ends here."
"Stay in line"
"Don't cross that line"
"Read between the lines"
"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line"
Lines are an integral part of our visual and verbal languages; they are everywhere. They are also the subject of last week's challenge in my photography class. This challenge sent me on a quest to see and record the lines around me; nature lines: man-made lines; perceived lines; lines made from light; lines made from groupings.
Thematic quests have always been a kick for me, just like I love thematic art shows. To take a subject - the more mundane the better - and make it a focus is a great way to see the variety that exists in existence, expression and perception. I would love to tell every artist in the world to make an apple and see the myriad of creations that would inspire. One of my favorite museum shows was that of the paintings done by VanGogh and Gaugin when they lived together. To see the same model or landscape painted by each at the same time, in the same place, was just wonderful. I am so enjoying my life drawing sessions now for the same reason. The uniqueness of each person's art is just fascinating to me.
I have always loved creativity with limits. In Graphic Design, my life for 40 some years, limitations were the norm. I always had limits of time, budget, production, and message. I loved pushing creativity as far as I could within those parameters. The lack of those requirements was one of the hardest things for me to get used to when I moved into fine art. Creating limits for myself was one of the reasons that I started entering shows. There I found size limits, construction requirements, and often a required theme. That was comfortable territory.
It is interesting now to look back on five years of making fiber art, and seeing what I have done. I am starting to recognize a voice of my own. In creating my own boundaries I am also defining myself and my art. I am sure many people find self and then make, but for me, it has worked in reverse. I let the make come out and then, in retrospect, I recognize an internal familiarity. Perhaps that is what ‘voice’ is; just how we each approach and record this universal subject called "life"!
I look at work that I did many years ago - paintings, prints, drawings, and even design - and see a direct line to what I am doing now. I notice a repetitive use of a preferred color way. I recognize my joy of details and texture. The compositions then and now have a similar resonance. Even the subject matter is often consistent. This retrospective recognition of voice is an unanticipated benefit of age.
But, enough of this tangent (see what I did there), back to my photo class… Here is a slide show of some of the lines I found this week.
Most of us who have had any Art training have spent time in life drawing sessions. I have taken them both as an undergrad and graduate student. I have taught them ( I am not confident in my capabilities there) and have enjoyed various models and instructors. Now I am trying something new. Not a Student. Nothing at stake. No required media. No critique. Just an immeasurable amount of self-directed experimentation and a copious amount of freedom.
Today we reconvened after a two week hiatus. One of the benefits of moving from Wisconsin to Virginia that I had never imagined was to be able to do life drawing outside in mid-November! So take that Covid, you haven't stopped us!
Like any exercise, there is both a natural roller coaster of the feeling of competency and joy. Like any exercise, a couple of weeks off also make you stiff! Today was like that. I had felt pretty good the last few sessions; Fluid, confident, focused. But not today. I struggled with which media to use, what to focus on and to avoid the trap of "making something good" .
We had a great model. People do not realize how much difference that makes. When you are getting so intimately connected with a model visually, you can't also avoid getting vibes. Some models are uncomfortable, and it is impossible to draw. Some are just twitchy or itchy and don't realize that when you are striving to get the foreshortening correct and they stretch their leg and reposition it three inches over, it makes a huge difference. But today we had a model who nailed every pose. My props to Katie.
Still, I was very disappointed with my work. I never felt that "artgasm moment" that makes it all worthwhile. But when I went back and looked at my work I realized that while the final picture may not have been "frame-worthy" I had actually been alive and aware after all.
The McGuffey Art Center, where my studio is housed, has been closed since March. This means the galleries have been empty, the classes unattended, the life drawing sessions called off, and visitors to our studios non-existent. Itis the right thing to do. It is understandable, and in fact, the solitude (we artists are allowed in our private studios) has been better than I thought it would be. It has been a productive, if not solitary time for me.
This month two alternatives have been found. The life drawing sessions have resumed the last two weeks. We are outside and we are masked, but we are drawing again! This is also the best time of year (IMHO) for weather in Virginia. The sun is bright, the humidity is down, and the breezes are refreshing. All this makes for well attended and productive sessions! Here are some of my drawings from the recent sessions:
Like I mentioned yesterday, my work has become more and more intricate and detailed. I needed a bit of a respite from that, so I took a "walkabout" in downtown Charlottesville. There is a building that has been left in a half-built state for about 5 years now. I am not sure of the story, but watching it degrade and change slowly over time is very interesting. I photo it often.
I was looking for quiet details. The light was soft, due to clouds and mist. So the colors, if there at all, were soft and muted too. The contrast of the worn or torn with the expanses of flat are very interesting. I am pretty sure that after my work on the lush and colorful nature of Smokey Mountain Park is finished, something like the simplicity found in these photos will be the basis of my next series.
Such a fun day! Today the farms that participate in the Charlottesville City Market opened their farms to the public for tours. We went to two of the farms; Double H and Caromont Farms.
At Double H we saw the pigs, turkeys and chickens they raise. We met the dogs that guard the animals, and saw the gardens of veggies that are planted, rotated and after the harvests are done, grazed and snuffled by the poultry and the pigs. The owners, Armenian immigrants Ara and Gayane Avagyan, gave us a very informative tour through the pens and gardens. They are all organic and self sufficient; doing all of the work themselves for the lat 11 years. It was evident that it is hard labor and a labor of love. They supply both produce and meat to many of the C'ville restaurants we go to, and now we will appreciate that food so much more, knowing what has gone into the making. (click on any of the photos to see a large image)
Next we went to Caromont Farm. They raise goats and are spectacular cheese makers. We got to meet Gail Hobbs-Page’s herd of Alpines, Saanens, and La Mancha goats. The goats were very friendly and even tried to sample my shirt! They started the first year by selling 300 pounds of cheese locally, and now sell about 30,000 pounds nationally. We sample the cheeses and had brats made and served by yet another local farm, and brought some fantastic feta home for our salads this week. (click on any of the photos to see a large image)
Another great part of the day was driving on the back roads of this beautiful Virginia countryside. I still can not get over the beauty of the red clay land against the vivid green foliage and blue sky. A perfect day.
I have been horse crazy since .... well since forever! It all started with a great rocking horse that my father made for me, and continued when I discovered that if I stuck a broom, handle down, into the folded roll-away bed in our basement, I would have almost a full-sized 'horse' to ride on. The covey of kids in our neighborhood used to play cowboys and Indians... I was the horse! As a young teen, I actually got to ride real ones! Until one threw me off (my fault not his) onto a manure spreader and I broke a few bones. My parents weren't too keen when I wanted to get back on after I healed. My family has taken a horse-pack trip into the Rockies - probably my favorite vacation ever. I even past the "cowboy test" (next time we have a beer I will tell you that story!)
The love of all things equine includes carousel horses. They are beauties frozen in time. Yes, some weird carousels have lions and dragons and various other creatures and some even have (the horror of it all) benches.
Those are fine for others, but for me give me the horse. The one with head bowed just before rearing, or the one with fire in his eyes, the black steed who, I know, comes alive at night, and, now untethered, out runs the rest...
In downtown Charlottesville, there is a small carousel. No calliope or barker, no lights, just some patient small steeds ready to fulfill a child's dream with a push from a parent or friend. I have talked to them, and watched them many times, but today I finally found them at rest. Not a child in sight! ALL MINE!!! We communed for a while while they frolicked and posed for me. I took portraits of them... each in their own private mood.
Today we walked up a couple of blocks to the 'International Celebration' in one of Charlottesville's many parks. It was a display of cultures, causes, food and music, but what I couldn't get over were the textiles. Draped, and cut and embroidered, and embellished, and woven and batik-ed; it was all there. So much color and beauty and pride! Here is a slideshow of just some of the textiles I saw.
This is our first spring here in Virginia, and all I can say is "wowsers!!! When one is used to the momentary spring that appears between winter and road construction in Wisconsin, Virginia redefines the word spring! The warm hits and the snow is gone - without leaving grey mounds of debris in its wake! The blooms have time to sway and glisten in the breeze and mist of spring rains and sunshine! I could get used to this! Good thing I got a new camera just in time! Click any of these to see them larger and as a slide show.
Since moving from Wisconsin to Virginia, we have had a bit to learn about winter in the south. After pooh-poohing their complete shut-downs for [what seemed like to us] minor snowfalls, We have come to respect the approach!
While the winters are less severe and the snowfalls both less frequent and less deep, the treachery produced by the just-above and just-below freezing temperatures, are a whole different game! Snowfalls, quickly melt into puddles which transform into sheets of black or white ice by morning, just to fool you into thinking they are still puddles. The last couple days have been like that.
Headed to the gym, I crossed three inch deep ice, bare ground, puddles, and snow... only to find the gym closed while the got the parking lot under control. So I thought I would finally post in this forgotten blog with some of pictures taken this morning. I headed home, got out the camera, and took another (very careful) walk around the block. Below is a slide show of the photos I took... hope you enjoy!
I had the most magical encounter this AM, just had to tell you all about it. I was walking to the library to return a book (Goldfinch! loved it, and read every one of the 700+ pages!). As I went up one of the side streets, there was a Gingko tree in all its autumnal glory. Not only were its branches filled with gold, but the sidewalk below it was carpeted with gold leaves and diamond raindrops.
I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures, when a gentleman (actually a gentle man) walked up and inquired about my love of Gingko trees. He said that he too was a fan and asked if I would do him a favor. He pulled out a camera from his pocket and said he had tried something the day before, but there was no one to help him, so would I mind taking a photo of him under the tree. I said of course I would. He got under the tree and counted to three, at which time he shook the trunk of the tree and it showered down yellow leaves, and I snapped away. He was so excited!
Turns out his father was responsible for the planting of many of Charlottesville's many Gingko trees. This included the giant one on the lawn of the UVA campus. (See picture below) He told me about a long line of Gingkos that had been planted on the UVA lawns, that later had to be taken down because they were all female trees and had stinky fruits! He told me of some streets to wander down where the Gingkos are especially bountiful and beautiful. Such a nice man, and a wonderful encounter. Here is a pic of the UVA Gingko - planted in 1924 - that I took earlier this year, and some more pics from this AM (click on any of them to see a larger slide show:
What's not to like; sweaters, deserved coffee, dramatic skies, colors galore, cold sheets and warm blankets... and did I mention sweaters! Nothing like putting on the wool or cashmere or even a bulky acrylic (or that, now rare, jill2day creation!) and heading out to kick some leaves, or as we did tonight, to pick up a growler of beer from the neighborhood brewery to go with hubby's curry!
We have had almost a week of drizzle and grey, but the sun broke through late today and mixed with the fluffy clouds to bring us the best fall could offer. Here are some pics I took. Click on any of them to see the full crop!
My sister belongs to a drumming circle in Boulder CO, and I have had the opportunity to hear them a couple of times. It is both mesmerizing and strikes primal chords within those within hearing distance.
Today as I walked to the Farmer's Market here in Charlotesville, I heard the heartbeat of drums. At first, because this is the weekend of UVA's first football game, I thought maybe there was some sort of a pep rally with the UVA band, but no, it was a small group of joyful people playing in front of one of the coffee shops.
Both the participants and the crowd were diverse in age and style and all; but all were smiling. Some were allowing the beat to move their feet, while others gently swayed. But there was a magnetism and joyousness to the sound. Evidently they perform every Saturday around noon, and invite anyone who wants to join in to sit at one of the extra chairs and drums (see above).
It was amazing, and I can not wait for my sis to visit so she can join in. Here is a gallery of some of the shots I took... click on them to see them full crop and large. (as you can see - kids had mixed emotions about it all!)
In Wisconsin, we had a porch and a swing and lots of untouched landscape. The occasional deer, many birds, and a clear view of the sky. It is a bit different in our urban digs in Charlottesville, VA. Tonight Jon and I decided to try out our new "patio... the fire escape!
The view is different, but no less interesting. Watching the people walking, the sun making the bricks glow, and the pigeons and helicopters overhead. There is even greenery around. Here are some more shots to let you enjoy the view with us... you will have to supply your own wine though! (Click on any picture to see it larger)
Recently "The Guardian" reported the following about Charlottesville, VA:
Last week, this central Virginian town was named America's happiest city – or Joy Town, USA, as America's media quickly had it – by the US National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). It's quite an accolade. But an informal poll of residents didn't find too many who rejected the finding. "I don't know about the happiest but it's certainly all right," says Jackson Greg, on Main Street late on Friday evening.
The band was also quite the mix of talent and people! I think every musician played several instruments and, as you can see here, sometimes two at once! Thanks to them and kudos for the fun they had and brought to us!
Here are a few more shots of Baaba Seth; just click on any of them to see the whole picture and a larger view!
It appears that the printed word is alive and well in Charlottesville, VA. Yesterday I became an official card carrying library patron! Of note, was the claim that this C'ville library was the most frequented library in VA. Good to know. It is a beautiful old building, that seems to house a great collection of information and entertainment. I was warmly welcomed to the community by Jeanne, the librarian. Can't wait to explore it thoroughly.
From there, I went to visit some of the bookshops in town. Being a college town, it is not surprising that there are bookshops, but the variety of independent, non-academic and used booksellers is wonderful. I guess that the biggest festival in Charlottesville is the Virginia Festival of the Book every March. I can not wait to participate net year!
This week I went to some of C'ville's very diverse book shops - all within walking distance from home. The first, The Blue Whale - Antique Prints, Books, and Maps, is guarded by what the owner described as "the sweetest dog on earth". When I countered with "aren't all Corgis sweethearts", he confirmed that none other is as sweet as his. This shop has not only books, well cataloged and displayed, but also prints and maps. It is a tony shop - with beautiful entrance and interior wood, well arranged bins and shelves, and the ambiance of a private library, with the congenial owner at the ready behind a beautiful library table/desk appropriately stacked with papers and books.
The second shop, Daedalus bookstore, (NOTE: link is to reviews - it appears they have no website!) appears to be a small shop, but has a seemingly endless maze of books. The building was a very compact home at one time, and has retained the many tiny rooms that once housed a family. Each room is fitted - or more correctly, crammed, with bookcases of every ilk and era. It was evident the proprietor knew most of the customers who edged their way between the shelves, a sign that this was a store for local regulars more than collectors or tourists. This warren of paper and ink is the perfect place to lose yourself on a hot southern afternoon. The musty smell, creaky staircase and millions of paperbacks and hardcovers will keep you busy for hours, even if you never crack open a volume - just read the myriad of titles!
Perhaps, this Yelp review describes Daedalus best: "I was afraid to pull out any book for fear of toppling over the entire building! If bookstores are measured by the sheer density of books per square foot, and by the precariousness of the pathways through them, then store is by far the best one that I've ever visited. Some of the hallways require turning sideways, or bending yourself like a pretzel. A very nice man was there to help me with anything I needed."
Tucked on one shelf of early volumes, was this anonymous picture of a woman. I am sure it was found while unpacking books, but she was just about the only non-book item in all of the place! Who knows how long she has been guarding these volumes.
We are now in Charlottesville, VA.Establishing new routines, finding new places, meeting new people, and suffering from exhaustion. But totally loving it. Today we spent 5 hours shopping at IKEA and to today spent 7 hours putting everything together! We decided to do that rather than move our stuff 800 miles to a place where it wouldn't fit, we would start new!
But before we started that, we walked about two blocks over and went to the farmer's market. It was great - and like in Madison, it is best before 8AM! Fresh coffee, beautiful produce, and other goodies. I present to you the proof below!
For dinner we just had fresh carrots, goat cheese, Italian bread, scallions, and other local goodies, with the wine jon got at the wine tasting he went to last night. We are both exhausted, so I will say good night.
We are staying in a wonderful B+B on the way home. It is the 200 South Street Inn in Charlottesville. Wonderful room, wine and cheese in the evenings and a great breakfast in the morning... if you are ever in the area I highly recommend it!
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !