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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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Time Flies

My last post talked about using my cell phone as an at-the-ready replacement for my lost elph. Turns out I'm not alone. One of the blogs I follow on the NY Times (Lens) has an excellent posting about cell-phone photos as an art form with tons of great submissions from readers. This shot is from Amelia & Mark's front window, where I've been staying. Thanks for putting me up guys!

Many people have asked if I feel strange to be back in New York. Same block, same building even! But no, it’s all very straight-forward and like when I lived here it was daily business: eating bagels, riding the subway, working the job I’ve had for ten years, annoying crowds on Bedford Avenue, subterranean studio, navigating (surfing, really!) the City’s complexities. It feels quite normal, really.

What does feel odd is being separated from my family and my home and all its comforts, even if many of them are still packed in boxes. I’m eager to get back to the projects I have begun back in Virginia. But no odd sentimental here-but-gone feeling I would have expected. I felt that way before I moved.

What is strange is the feeling that far more than three weeks have passed since we pulled up the stakes. That’s less time than I usually spend away during the typical summer. Maybe it’s because, as I just mentioned, my heart had moved quite some time ago. Maybe it’s because Time flows at different speeds; Hawking’s proposition that time flows in proportion to a body’s velocity. And my body has been in serious motion.

Interestingly, it’s not just my perception, everyone I talk to says the same thing,

“I can’t believe you only moved three weeks ago!”

I guess I’m living in a singularity.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Most Dramatic Welcome

Ever since I lost my Elph, I've been trying my hand at phone photography to fill that spontaneous poloroidesque snapshot role that my SLR can't handle because it's too bulky or not convenient enough. This shot was taken while I was stuck in traffic in Newark,

This is a special moment for the blog: the first time I'm venturing into the City after setting up shop in Virginia. In a way, it's what we've all been waiting for: the CountryMouse gets his turn in the City.

I just got here and need to digest a little bit before I can say how it feels to be back (maybe it's the huge pork burrito I just inhaled?). The return trip was certainly momentous, beautiful and precipitous.

If I had very jumbled feelings about returning to the City that Never Sleeps, it was nothing compared to what was happening in the stratosphere.

Instead of the typical I-95 route, I prefer whenever possible to drive up I-81 through the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley to I-84 through Pennsylvania Dutch country. It's just as fast (if not faster) and so beautiful as to make the trip itself almost a pleasure.


Anyway, it was a perfect summer day with that golden light falling softly over blue mountains, green forests, and tan fields of wheat and mature corn. All the way up, there were huge mounds of storm-bearing clouds to my right, the East, as I traveled North. When I turned East just past Harrisburg, I was exposed to a full-frontal view of a spectacular meteorological show. Those huge anvil clouds let loose in front of me with tons of lightning and black skies beneath the towering thunderheads. Never on me, mind you, always in front of me. It was like a show (or demonstration) set up specifically for me.

As I crossed the Lehigh River and then the Delaware, the most amazing and huge rainbow opened in front of me and stayed there for almost two hours, all the way into New York.

I-84 in New Jersey was a scene of post-apocalyptic destruction. An interstate strewn with huge trees and underpasses so badly flooded I was grateful for the gas-guzzling (but 4WD capable) vehicle I drive. I found out later that tornadoes had passed through.

Nearly out of gas from the traffic, I had to take a short detour into Newark, where I heard the quote of the day,

Man #1: “Muy Humido!”

Man #2: “Yeah, soon its gonna start to stink like Hell.”

Now I'm back in Williamsburg and the air is sultry with clothes clinging to bodies, suggestion in the air like the honeysuckle and wild rose smell back in Central Virginia. So it's not all bad.

That's why summer is my favorite time of year. I love the sweaty bodies and not needing (or wanting) to wear much. I like the long days, the dramatic weather, and the languorous erosion of the membrane that separates us from the Natural World and from one another. Not a complete dissolution-just a little bit closer and more connected.

A Shout Out to you, the Readers

Because there are so few comments on the blog, I had assumed that no one is reading it. Turns out, au contraire!!! I've been getting lots of feedback lately through other channels: Facebook, emails, even phone calls thanking me or commenting on something I've written. It means a lot to me to know that there are others relating to what I'm writing. THANK YOU!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We're starting to feel quite relaxed in our new environment. Note: that glass of wine is not bigger than Meredith's head--it's a trick of photography. We're not that relaxed--yet.

Maybe the best thing about moving to a new place is the joy of exploring a new environment. We‘ve been taking plenty of long walks all around the neighborhood. As a runner, I have an extended range and can poke my head all around the city and some of the environs, which are very runner-friendly. Charlottesville is very hilly and full of surprising little hollows and great views of the surrounding countryside which, at its best, can truly be called idyllic. It’s like the area around Woodstock or the Bay Area (without the ocean).

Like those lovely places, there is a wonderful appreciation for living life well. That means an amazing food scene, lots of great music, amazingly much public art, and a general desire to live life in a creative way. Those strolls around the area have provided plenty of ideas and inspiration in the form of gardens, creative color schemes, and front porches with swings.

I have a terrific studio lined up at the McGuffey Art Center, which is an old school converted into art studios—think PS 1 with studios instead of exhibition spaces (although they have that too). It’s a nice space, subsidized, and within a great community.

My lease starts in September but their board and director have been incredibly accommodating and have found me a subletter until after the marathon. I won’t be able to work there much until then (and residents are required to use the space on a weekly basis). They’ll take care of all the details such as payment. So I’m guaranteed a studio but I effectively start on December 1, which matches perfectly with what I’m doing with my New York Studio. They tell me that it’s because of the strength of my candidacy, which makes me feel pretty good. Perhaps that’s part of the payoff from the dues I paid in New York.

I haven’t really begun to explore the art scene here too much, being so focused on the house and the garden. I’m OK with that actually: I’ve taken a few weeks away from making art and from Road Runners (with occasional check-ins) in favor of setting up my new life in this new place. Hitting the ‘reset’ button is not something one can do too many times, it takes a lot of time and money. It’s perhaps even more rare to have a period of time in which so many of the usual concerns of day-to-day are put on hold in order to allow a real focus on setting things up in a smart way, just the way we want them.

So a few more weeks of intensive installing, gardening, unpacking, and arranging in our little house and yard, subjects of near-future posts.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Settling In

Wow, that was intense. Two weeks of preparing to move, moving, preparing to receive our stuff, and actually doing so has left scant time for blogging. It has been a whirlwind of motion and I’m only now getting my breath.

The reality is starting to sink in: I’m here now; I’m a Virginian. No more asking my in-laws about their state or their town. They’re our politicians and this is our somewhat off-beat place.

I have to say that I love it. I love the fact that I fall asleep to strange animal sounds, yet can walk to City Hall (where people are super-friendly) or to a concert or to an art opening. I love that I can see mountains from my street and that I can leave my bike on the porch. It’s Southern but there’s nothing strange about my rusty push-powered mower, my compost or my free-spirited ways. Organic living is at a whole ‘nother, sometimes over-the-top level here, yet there’s also the Virginia gentility. I feel quite at home here and that knot that resided in my chest in the City is gone.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m incredibly intimidated by the challenges lurking in my mosquito-infested yard, the mountains of boxes that need to be unpacked, and the sheer enormity of work I want/need to do on the house. But there’s something rewarding about pouring sweat equity into your own place.

Sebastian loves it. He has a yard to play in, a playground across the street, friends (already!) including a boy next door. He has an upstairs and a basement and his school is steps away. And it's a lot nicer than PS84. The pools around here have giant waterslides and couldn’t feel more different from the prison-like public baths of New York. Grandparents nearby.

He says: “I never want to move from this place.” I think it’s because he loves it so much but it could also be because moving is such a monumental hassle! (written 6/10)