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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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cheered by the Gloom

Root growth is crucial: otherwise the tree tumbles. And this is the season for it.

This drear always makes me listen to Nick Drake or Beck, which reminds me of Jeremy Blake and that takes me right back to the sources of my art. He showed me a way to make sense of the absurd contradictions that are all too apparent to 14-year old boy, and which I'm afraid never really go away. For him, they deepened and became too much. Sad stuff.

When I stepped out into the cold damp this morning for my daily walk to the studio, I was surprised at how wonderful it was: it was misty and lively, with a strong scent of the Earth. Underneath the leaves, I could smell sleeping things: plants and worms and microscopic creatures, gathering their strength and perhaps dreaming of spring. Instead of hiding under my covers I want to run and dance in it and even as I write I cannot keep my eyes away from the window. The tree branches scratching the light-table grey sky are more compelling to me than back lines and circles on my laptop screen.

I've been telling people that I love January because it's so productive--nothing to do but lock the door and get to work. But I think that's a slight misappraisal. There's something subversive about the deep parts of winter that is related to the sources of artistic inspiration--it's a renewal that takes place under the surface, a gathering of fuel. My dogwood and new cherry are showing buds that will explode in March and April. As an artist, I'm doing the same thing: working hard in the studio and developing many new ideas that I'll unleash soon. It's all very exciting.

Los Angeles seemed like an odd fit for Jeremy and his minor-key groove. Maybe that's where it all went wrong. I don't recall ever speaking to him about the season cycle or the natural world, but I can easily imagine the plastic smiles and relentless cheer would must have exhausted him.

I'm on record a huge fan of Springtime but right now I'm grateful for the January grey. Time to get out in it while it lasts!

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