Friday, July 13, 2012

Glen Echo Deco

My classroom

There's very little Americana in the Washington DC suburbs, it all tends to be either too tasteful or too new. I recently signed up for a sculpture class at Glen Echo Park, Maryland,  about 30 mins drive round the beltway from home. I knew it was quite a center for art, dance and music classes but I had no idea they were housed in what was formerly an amusement park.

The buildings are beautifully preserved. It's surprisingly appropriate that they are being used to house artists' studios and galleries because in the late 1800s, before the amusement park was built in 1911, the park was part of a program called the National Chautauqua Assembly. This was an adult education movement with Methodist roots, dedicated to teaching science, arts, languages and literature and once referred to by former president Theodore Roosevelt as "the most American thing about America". There were traveling programs and some permanent sites, including Glen Echo.

 I wore the right color!

The amusement park closed in 1968 and in '71 the Federal Government bought the land. The National Park Service collaborated with art organizations to create a visual and performing arts program on the site which would be in the spirit of the original Chautauqua movement. What an inspired decision.

It's an evening class, so I nipped out to enjoy the lights. Wonderful!

Anyone got a spare bulb?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wanted, dead or alive

If anyone sees this little painting, let me know. I put it down on the ground while I unlocked the car in Rockville Md and promptly drove off without it. My friend Michael had taken care of it with no miss-hap for 2 months and just handed it back to it's doting mum. This constant erosion of the brain cell count is very trying.....

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Big Derecho

This week anyone living in the Washington DC area learned a new word, Derecho. It's sudden introduction and overuse reminds me of the Bush/Gore 2000 election when you couldn't get away from "gravitas"..... once one journalist used it,  it took off like a verbal rocket and still rears it's head occasionally at subsequent election times only to get a resounding nationwide shhhhhh

Anyway.... we had a derecho here last Friday apparently, pronounced de-ray-sho and according to Wikipedia, meaning a widespread and long lived, straight line windstorm associated with a band of severe thunderstorms which can exceed hurricane force, capable of striking with the force to knock down highway signs and trees. In other words, what we would previously have referred to as "a heck of a storm last night."

We were in Philadelphia for a live taping of Radiolab at the Academy of Music, wonderful evening, didn't think much about the thunder during the night. We turned up at the station the next morning, happy and refreshed after a good night's sleep, to find hoards of people sitting around dejected and despairing, enormous delays and then the total cancelation of all trains south to DC. Unheard of disruption and no real information, at least none that was audible. We ended up schlepping back to the hotel to stay another night, turned on the tv and that's when we discovered that half the east coast was in total chaos without power, people killed by falling trees etc. We finally made it home on Sunday after interminable waiting around and testing of patience and some considerable concern about what we'd find waiting for us.
There are worse places to check your email of course..... the buildings in downtown Philly are very grand like this hotel lobby which is a converted bank. Even the Starbucks down the road had marble floors, walls and giant columns like this.

David, waiting it out in splendor.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fireworks on the Blue Ridge

There was a heat haze so the snowmakers were on, misting the air
July 4th fell on a Wednesday this year and we headed down to Wintergreen in the Blue Ridge Mountains, for the annual festivities. We would have liked to spend the whole week there but last Friday's extreme storms knocked the power out over the weekend. Temperatures are near 100F most days.

Local band Modern Tactics doing classic rock covers in cowboy hats. They were great!

Main stage on the ski slope, getting close to singing the National Anthem at 9.30



Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Project #1, Intuitive painting

Here is my normally neat, tidy, peaceful studio above the garage at our house at Wintergreen, VA, about 3 hours south of our real lives in Reston. I do careful oils and watercolors, always with a clear idea during the process of how I intend the finished piece to look.... even if it usually falls short of the mark :)

Recently I've been taking an e-course in Intuitive painting called Bloom True, by the wonderful, inspiring Flora Bowley. (With apologies for any unintentional misrepresentation...... ) she takes entirely the opposite approach--- paint is applied fairly randomly in many layers, then you begin to incorporate personal imagery and pull it out of the painting, still continuing to add layers of color and pattern as the forms develop. You apply paint with foam brushes, your fingers, bubble wrap..... whatever tools you like. This is not for the faint hearted, you can't get too attached to the results at any point or you may stifle future possibilities, as often bits you quite like get covered up or changed. She emphasizes that for all the beginning stages she has no clear idea where the picture will end up but "trusts the process". The results are amazing, even if our beginning stages are often "awkward teenagers"! It's very interesting and challenging to abandon preconceived goals to this degree, follow your intuition and just go with the flow. And it's MESSY!!!

Here's what my studio looks like now..... note the plastic sheeting on the floor for the squirting of water and the dripping! My pictures are at stage 4,  nowhere near completion. They have a layer of warm colors, cool colors, black and white, then glazes. Tomorrow they'll have changed again. Most of us on the course are taking photos at each stage to chart the evolution and sharing images for feedback. It's a very enthusiastic, supportive group.

What will we evolve into?

Here is the view from my studio door through to the backyard. The strange looking bare palm tree is a wind sculpture from Canyon Rd in Santa Fe, it looks lovely when it turns!