Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

WAGMAG Benefit

Give your sweetheart a one-of-a-kind gift this Valentine's Day.
Urban Orchard 5. Ink on paper 9" x 12" 2008.

This piece is in the WAGMAG benefit Valentine's Day at Front Room Gallery. It's a fun and affordable way to pick up original art. Here's how it works: $200 gets you a raffle ticket ($175 before February 9). Every ticket gets a work of art of your choice. The drawing determines the order of selection.

Last year I lost the lottery--second to last, actually--but I still got my third choice. It's a great Mary Westring print hanging in my kitchen and we enjoy it every day. When I invited Mary over for a glass of wine to see the print on the wall, she gave me another print. So $200 got me two great pieces that I love.

The show is free and the opening (which will be very fun) is open to everyone, but it's really worthwhile to get the raffle ticket. You're sure to get some great work and you'll be helping to support a great publication (WAGMAG) and keep it free.

Valentine's Day WagMag Benefit
Advanced Viewing: Jan 31st-Feb 14th
Viewing hours:Fri-Sun 1-6pm
Reception and Raffle of work Saturday February 14th, 7-9pm

Front Room Gallery
147 Roebling Street Williamsburg, Brooklyn 718.782.2556

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We know what to do

On National Service Day, Sebastian and I braved the snow to clean a park that commemorates the sacrifices at Valley Forge.

With the inauguration of Barack Obama, we wanted to make a special effort to get out and do something on MLK Day, the National Day of Service. Barack put out the call and everyone was answering. We especially wanted to make sure that whatever we did would include Sebastian--he's the real beneficiary.

We went online to sign up and every single job was overbooked. They could probably use some help the other 364 days of the year. Undoubtedly and we may be so inspired on those other days too but I wanted to do something on THIS day. Then the thought came to me like a yell: Open Your Eyes! There's no shortage of work that needs to be done on the South Side.

I pulled on rubber gloves and Sebastian bundled up with his mittens, we grabbed some trash bags and took a walk around the nabe. We hit the "Bridge Plaza Playground" on South 4th and the Continental Army Plaza, two blocks of South 4th and a very unloved block of South 5th under the bridge.

Our work was hampered by the several inches of snow, which concealed much, but did not stop us from filling several contractor bags in about an hour's time. It is very fitting that the next day, the President's Inaugural address recalled that same harsh winter on the banks of the Delaware to remind us of what our ancestors endured for us and the sacrifices that we can/must make for our children.

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When things come together

A few weeks ago our friend Rachel came to dinner and gave us a CD from one of her favorite new artists: Bon Iver. Love it. Last week’s New Yorker contained a glowing review of that very disk that agreed perfectly with, and built upon, our own impressions. Seems like Rachel plugged us into something good.
That made us think of our visit to New Orleans a few years back (before the flood). On our last night we sort of fell into a very unassuming bar where the music was simply jamming. Guys were coming in off the streets, sitting in for a few numbers then yielding their chairs to someone else. The groove was more infectous than anything I’ve experienced since. The next day on the plane ride home, we opened the Crescent City’s version of the Village Voice, hot off the press. In his weekly column, Andrei Codrescu wrote how he had found the beating New Orleans’ beating heart at the very same gig. Everyone in the room could feel it.
Last night I dreamt that Sebastian had overfilled the bathtub and I awoke to find the pie plate I had left under the radiator had failed miserably in catching the surplus outflow. The result was a pool of water on the living room floor. I suppose the dream was a warning from my subconscious mind that a small domestic catastrophe was on its way, just as the meteorologists had foreseen Katrina.
I celebrate the many connections that tie us to one another and connect each of us to the universe around and within us. It would be nice however, to be able to read those invisible linkages before I have to get out the mop. I suppose that’s where intuition and wisdom meet.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dave Hickey Still Callin' It Like He Sees It

In this month's issue of Art in America, Dave Hickey laments that today's artists have lost their reverence for their deep-historical predecessors. Consequently, in his view, they have given up the best arrow in their quiver of ways to make sense of a perplexing world.

I don't have scientific data, nor do I pretend to be an expert on any artist except Yours Truly, but anecdotally I am often surprised at how little my contemporaries seem to know or care about what artists did before Duchamp--or even prior to this exact moment. I should amend that to say that I find young artists to be that way--more so than when I was coming up. Not surprising to see that in a market obsessed with the superficial veneer of originality and, like the rest of popular culture, stuck in a never-ending embrace of adolescence.

I think there’s also an element in consumer culture that wants to keep stirring the water up so we don’t see what’s underneath the surface. We’re now seeing the devastating consequences of this willful collective myopia in our shattered financial system. If folks had asked a few more questions on topic instead of constantly changing the subject perhaps we would be in better shape now. The mess we’re in cuts across the entire culture and artists have some culpability as well. Undoubtedly, a little more historical awareness would have helped.

Before you yell, "No, not me--I know my history," which is your right, please bear with me a little longer. And this is not about whether you agree with Hickey’s premise, it's about holding oneself accountable. And to put a dot on my take on his argument I would say that artists are, broadly speaking, somewhat less interested in history, but that changes with age. Everyone values experience more as they acquire more of it and look more to the past to help figure out the present. What’s really changed though is the age of the artists being awarded blue-chip status. When someone receives the highest accolades right out of school, there’s a real disincentive to push deeper. While that may be the situation for just a few artists, that group has received disproportionate attention and set the tone for the last decade. Let’s hope that is changing--it worked well in the "don't-ask-don't-tell" era but suddenly not so much.

Back to Dave Hickey. One of my most impression-making experiences as a working artist took place at the biennial International Sculpture conference, where he was keynote speaker. It was the immediate aftermath of the Columbine massacre and Hickey painted a picture of two young minds incapable of projecting the consequences of their deed—they could only see what would happen if they pulled the trigger by actually doing it. Hickey called it a Crisis of the Imagination and asked if, as stewards of the collective Imagination, artists were perhaps somehow falling short.

You could hear a pin drop in that room and a lot of people were shaking their heads. I, on the other hand, was jumping out of my skin and wanting to high-five my neighbors. There was hearty discussion at the cocktail party and dinner that followed, which was, of course the speaker’s intent. The room pretty much agreed that Americans are an unimaginative lot, but my fellows generally did not appreciate being called to task (even in the most vague and collective way) for Harris and Klebold’s heinous action. Even imagining that Hickey was way off base, as one could also do on the question of art-historical awareness, the implicit challenge in his assertion was useful motivation.

It isn’t comfortable to be challenged but we can only do great things if we set ambitious goals. Heaven knows that Hickey has a very expansive definition of the cultural legacy and for him to feel that culture is being dumbed-down is a pretty frightful charge. Whether or not it’s true, I for one am glad to see one of my favorite writers still issuing manifestos, still caring enough to say, "you can do better."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wave Hill: Wow!

I almost forgot that I was in Da Bwonx, until a lady informed me that the locals like to sue people for taking pictures of their trees. I [heart]NYC! Note: this is a Wave Hill tree and fair game for photographers. Those small ones in the background may be off limits though...

A little early for an appointment, I found myself and my camera with a spare hour in Ridgewood so my friend Lisa suggested that I check out the trees at Wave Hill. A number of my friends have either had shows there or told me I should apply for one myself so I was eager to have a look.

What a revelation! From the trees to the beautiful houses to the outrageous views of the Hudson, I easily lost track of that hour. I was there when the Center's two key elements were missing--the exhibition halls were closed and the gardens were hibernating--yet it was still a very worthwhile trip. I can only imagine what it must be like in the Springtime, full of art, with live music.

I hope to find out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

How'd we do in 08?

Update to the previous post:
Splinter came through for me at the last minute, providing this lovely little cauldron in which to burn my inhibitions, clearing the path for successful resolutions for 09. I just hope the fact that I breathed a whiff of the smoke doesn't set me back too much!

Since we're being public about our New Year's resolutions (well, most of them), let's take a look at how we did in 08. They seemed a bit ambitious but now I see that I did astonishingly well.

Here we go:

Get a Manhattan gallery that will represent my interests on a national/international level.
Well not yet but I'm still working on it. In fact it's back on the list for 09.

Do more group shows.
Yup. and with very good results: sales, awards, new connections, and interesting experiences. Though not on the list, that's a big goal for 09 as well.

Cure Beevis and Creepers of their respective illnesses/neurosis. Or at least stabilize them.
Well this one was truly astonishing. Creepers went right to death's door and we dragged him back through sheer force of will. Now both cats are healthier than any time since we've had them.

Rock Boston
I feel like it rocked me. Other people told me I did OK though. I plan to do better this year.

Eat a super-healthy diet, including greens every day
That's made a big difference, especially the part about eating greens. Back on the list for 09, along with good sleep.

Resolve my financial woes
Somehow things have gotten much better. I think Cole stepped up big time.

Seize opportunity when it lands in my lap.
I can think of a few opportunities I've missed. This is an ongoing thing...

Find some kind of emotional equilibrium (yeah right!)
I think I've gotten better in this regard. Especially in not trying to fix (or mess up) things that are already working in my life. That's always been a weakness for me.

Always ask people’s names when talking on the telephone

Celebrate, rather than resent, my friends’ and neighbors’ riches.
This one was so big and complex it got its own entry. I think I have gotten better in this regard and a big part of that is to recognize one's own advantages and riches (of which I have many). That's an ongoing pursuit however and a major key to living a happy life.