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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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Orange October

When I'm not swimming in a sea of orange jackets at the ING New York City Marathon, it's the abundant splendor of the autumn trees.

When I agreed to continue working the ING New York City Marathon after moving to Charlottesville, I had this fantasy that I would live an almost normal life at home, then parachute into New York at the last second to save the day. The opposite has been the case: for the last few weeks my focus has been much more on New York and my very demanding employment.

But Life continues unimpressed with workaday dramas and concerns. In fact my art career is undergoing a major growth spurt at the moment and I simply cannot lay it aside for a few weeks. Consequently, the past three days—my last shore leave before ten straight 10+ hour efforts at the Marathon—have been just this side of insanity. These days it feels like I air-drop back into my life to take care of things in a major hustle.

If you’re curious, here’s a bit of my agenda during this Virginia trip:

Arrive home from New York at 1:00 am. Sleep a few hours.
Laundry, breakfast, take Sebastian to school
Go running through the stunning golden forest on Carter’s Mountain
Conference call for work
One hour of photography (Monticello Road) while autumn splendor lasts
Quick meeting at The Bridge PAI to discuss Monticello Road
Meeting at McGuffey to discuss First Night Virginia
Work emails
Clean studio, water dying plants, etc
Pick Sebastian up from school, playground for an hour
Conference call
Make dinner for family, Sebastian to bed. Early to bed myself

Up early to take a sculpture up to my gallery in DC (Aaron Gallery). Fortunately the drive was very smooth and in this season, it is incredibly beautiful.
But first about an hour and a half of Road Runners work
Book it back to Charlottesville in time to winterize my garden ahead of upcoming frost
Pick up Sebastian from School
Stand in half-mile line to see Obama. Thankfully Sebastian’s grandma got a good spot for us.
Ham sandwich dinner then as early to bed as possible.

Up REALLY early for sunrise time trial. Ran adequately well but with moderate expectations due to insufficient sleep and second-rate nutrition
Woke Sebastian, fed him and took him to the Farmers Market
Office hours at McGuffey while Sebastian played cars, boats, and pirates on the playmat we made. I fell asleep at my desk
Home for lunch, more laundry, various household chores
Pack for extended return to New York
Work emails
Finally that nap I apparently needed
Playground with Sebastian and a tightly contested basketball match
Make dinner for family and our visiting Aunt Virginia
Date with Meredith: premiere of Danger. Zombies. Run. Q&A and afterparty
Left early to get decent sleep

Up early for 7:00 am train
Breakfast in dining car followed by blogging
Multiple meetings await this afternoon in New York

It’s enough to make my own head spin but you know what? It is invigorating and it feels good to be busy. Somehow, I’m managing to do the bread-and-butter part of my job, grow my art career (meetings with 3 separate galleries in 5 days—one more next week), make some art (lots of photos), keep up with my running (not improving but maintaining for this spell), do some fun things, and hang out with my family as much as possible.

That last part is the rub: during the rest of the year I’m very spoiled in that I have nearly unlimited time with Sebastian but the toll of being away from Sebastian so much is becoming very apparent to me. I don’t get to take him trick-or-treating and I never have. This weekend he stayed very, very close to me and has come into our bed every night, which is uncharacteristic. He was extremely attentive and hopped to my every request and instruction. He has always been a very easy child and a pleasure to be around but you can tell he’s insecure about losing me and that bothers me.

Fortunately, this craziness only lasts for a few weeks and I am in the home stretch. The rest of the year, I enjoy unusually much time with Sebastian and my family, am really present in the neighborhood, and a nearly unfettered studio practice.

This period is exhausting. And exhilarating. I enjoy it but I will be glad when it’s over.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monticello Road

I will have four full seasons to capture the neighborhood in all its costumes.

Update: The exhibition is scheduled for Spring, 2012

I'm very excited to say that The Bridge Public Art Initiative has agreed to host my Monticello Road exhibition. It's a wonderful opportunity and a tremendous vote of confidence from an institution that's doing some terrific work.

The exhibition will examine the people and places along one of America's most historic byways. Monticello Road is an ancient trail that has been in use since Paleolithic times and, as its name suggests, the principal route to Monticello and points south. At the same time, this is a place where people (myself included) live their daily lives. Any exploration of a place so steeped in history must necessarily mine the past but this project is firmly seated in the present--it's about what is there now.

Due to the inevitable changes that history brings, only about a mile of Monticello Road still exists, which is actually good for my purposes. It will be quite manageable for me to explore its entire length in some depth.

We have not selected a date or scope for the exhibit, so check back for more details. I am quite excited though: this is a project with many possibilities and broad support within the community itself.

It will be alot of fun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

California Dream

I love that the Golden Gate refers not to the bridge but to the passage between the golden hills.

Wow! I didn’t know that I needed a vacation but my little sneak-away weekend was a a dream.

I really love California and although I’m happy with where I live, it certainly is uplifting to step away from time to time and check out a new place and a new way of living. That’s just what I did: explore, observe and absorb.

I was there for three days and all I did was cruise around from place to place, neighborhood to neighborhood. On the first day I took a very long urban hike: five hours of walking, cafes, stores, shops, parks and plenty of urban landscape. The second day, I drove into Marin County and walked among the redwoods, and ran along the spectacular Headlands. The third day was both on foot and in the vehicle—culminating with a little drive south along the Coastal Highway.

Difficult to imagine three better day: no specific destination, all senses wide open and well fed. It was like fuel for my soul and now I’m back to the normal routine, but fresh and full of energy and ideas.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Getting Steamed and Cooling Off

I guess I've grown too accustomed to my serene Virginia meditation spots.

The autumn is always a stressful time for me. Many deadlines in the Art World, ungodly amounts of travel and, of course, there’s the beast of November: the Marathon. I thought it would be a good idea to head down to the 10th Street Baths for a relaxing steam.

It was a cold and damp Monday and many others must have had the same idea. In fact, it was packed—not enough room to stretch and very claustrophobic. Sweaty, damp tiles, hot, with many people, and no room on the benches: it turns out that there’s a very fine line between a relaxing spa and a bad subway commute. I was starting to get steamed alright. Really stressed out, the opposite of why I go there.

Finally, I snapped at a guy. He was telling me not to steal his friend’s seat when I was actually just reaching for my water bottle; and I let him know that with a very sharp rebuke. He was rightly shocked and I apologized right away. He didn’t deserve my venom and I told him so.

Then I slinked off and found a quiet corner and forced myself to take a deep breath and accept my surroundings and enjoy the company of so many interesting and obviously healthy people. It was what I should have done right from the start.

As time went on, it started to seem less crowded. Either people left to go have dinner or something inside me changed. In any case, I had a very relaxing visit with plenty of deep breathing, good stretching, and healing dips in the cold bath.

I can still feel the benefit a week later.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On the Block

Filling the road with sun required the street to be closed. Why not have a block party too?

Meredith told us that she saw some kind of block party on her way home through the neighborhood on Saturday and Sebastian and I set out on foot to investigate. We had to walk his two friends home anyway. The balloons bobbing above a sawhorse in the middle of the road promised family fun and Sebastian set off at a run to investigate.

We walked into a full-blown neighborhood party: half a dozen grills blazing, tables full of food (ever try Frito salad? Yum!), music, kids running around everywhere, and many of our friends. I phoned Meredith and she hopped on her horse and joined us moments later. We met many new people and had a great time. It was a perfect fall evening with golden, puffy clouds and clean, cool air.

As daylight faded into night, an impromptu walkup movie theater opened up, with kids movies projected on the side of one of the houses. The children piled up into a big snuggle, with their little glow bracelets, and the adults pulled lawn chairs around a fire that somehow materialized.

We finally took our leave when the moon was halfway across the sky, tucked Sebastian into bed without a fuss and went directly to sleep, exhausted from fresh air and laughter, with the smell of woods smoke in our hair.