Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Art Of A Week

Ten days back I arrived at Bennington College's bucolic campus to teach my master course Landscape and Meaning for Art New England. Over the course of five days I watched the fields shift from tall meadow to cut hay, then rolled into yodels for ungulate fodder. You could say nature was converted to culture before my eyes. Above, a sixty thousand dollar view (education included).

Sunday arrival and orientation.

There was a twelve-hour ice cream bin, but I did not partake. I did think it looked awfully like a tray of watercolors. The food was designed by a corporate service for college kids and as it happened -I ate like one. Probably my only weekly weight gain since I chose to eat quite a bit differently last winter.

On the final evening the students bring the week's work to exhibit in the main arts building. We had only four students but they had more than enough work to fill the enormous wall. And they worked beyond the limits of painting -there were nearly 200 pages of reading, hour long discussions morning or afternoon, and one student even wrote a two page essay.

The final critique, Saturday morning. Only brave people sign up for a course titled Landscape and Meaning where the description contained words like conventions and interrogation. My students were open, inquisitive, focused and productive. A teacher could hardly ask for more.

I cannot teach meaning, but I can provide context and cultural attitudes, we can view our works through the perceptive lenses of Marxism, Feminism, and social or cultural geography. We can tap into the deep well of literature and its criticism for parallels to our project. Why paint the land and if we must, how? Not easy questions, but then the class was just a beginning, a seed.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Garlic Is In

Rocambole "Russian Red" pulled and ready to be tied.

Porcelain "Georgian Fire"

The largest Silverskin I have ever grown. These are "Silverwhite."

All a hanging for the studio cure. Garlic sales open middle August over at Hudson Clove.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Camera Thief!

A week and a half back, my camera -an Olympus XZ2 point and shoot was stolen while I was working in the garden. Betsy was there too, just at the other end. It was a Monday morning, around nine, and the street was dead quiet. That's when it happened. We saw nothing, no one. When working in the garden, which for all my years gardening here has included taking pictures, I hang the small camera case on the short spikes of the iron rail, facing inwards. You would hardly notice it unless you were watching.

The pain of it has subsided, but what frustrated me the most, at the moment, was that I consider myself an observant person, a defensive sort, and yet I had a total blind spot -I saw no one, felt no presence in the 3 minutes I looked away. What nags me now is that I shopped relentlessly for a camera that would do all that I needed, and waited until the price dropped to a great deal (under three hundred). Now, needing to buy another, the deal is lost and knowing the camera's few shortcomings, I wonder about buying more than a point and shoot. For now, I'll go back to my phone camera. The pictures here are some of the last downloaded before that morning.

 We had honey bees, well one, on our Russian Sage.

 The afternoon sun, potted annuals, and the iron rail.

 The lily.

 Raspberries at the farmers' market.

Afternoon sun and the day lilies. 

Tomorrow I am off to Boston, then off to Vermont to teach my course Landscape and Meaning, a project which has occupied most of the last few weeks with reading and research. I don't think I'll have an opportunity to blog while there, but one never knows, and if so there is always the mobile blogger experience. The next two days promise to be great weather -enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Crispy Season

It has been generally dry for three weeks which has led to rapid dry down of nearly all of the varieties. From too wet one season to too dry another, all varieties could have used some supplemental moisture a week or so ago. Soon these Porcelain will be harvested.

A few scapes are always missed, and they rise up to reveal bulbils -small bulb-like appendages that can be eaten or planted. This and the two below are Rocambole.

The Rocambole "Russian Red" and "Killarney Red" will be harvested today or tomorrow. So will the Purple Stripe "Chesnok Red," and the Creole "Pescadero Red" and "Creole." Soon after will come the Porcelain and Marbled Purple Stripe, and next week the Silverskin.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A GPS Tempest

It may be quite a blog folly to represent my highway travel along and through a storm with handheld, geo-positioning technology. But to my mind the visuals of the highway are less interesting -the rush of vehicles, the monotony of pavement. I chronicle the birth of a tropical storm just to the southeast of my earthly coordinates -represented by the blue and white dot in the fourth image. On July three I begin my northward journey via I95, a road which coarsely follows the coastline and parallels the typical path of storms like Arthur. Humans, currents, coastlines, atmospheric pressures all following the same path. 

Outer bands of hurricanes can often fool the spectator. We expect wind, but there is little to none, yet certain quadrants develop stronger storms and in the south they often spawn tornados. It was night, heavy thunderstorms were building rapidly over northern North Carolina, just an hour or so before the Virginia line. Scanning the radar, my concern grew over two cells that were developing just to the east of I95. These aren't the typical tornado radar signatures, in fact they had little in common with those -but something about them was menacing and I pulled off at the next exit ramp to study the situation.

I had the radio on, which was then interrupted by meteorological talk, talk of tornados in this county and that county. At one point they stated that a large and dangerous tornado is on the ground, but then backpedaled, while continuing to wait for reports and issue NWS warnings. If it weren't for my handheld, I'd have to dig into roadmaps to decipher which county I was even traveling through! As it turns out, two tornado warnings (issued when there is a confirmed sighting or when radar signatures suggest a possible tornado) were issued for the region just two miles and ten miles or so to my north, both potentially impacting I95, just ahead of me.

Tension was high, the rain was heavy, and the lightning powerful. I waited out the first warning and then had to make a decision on the second: turn west toward Raleigh, then north (although storms were building fast to the west as well), or go as fast as I can on I95 and hope that I make it ahead of the the warning area. This kind of storm creates a very dynamic, unstable condition that undermines predictability but I had to do something, so I chose I95, as fast as possible, to get ahead of the warning zone. I made it, just as the storms built behind me, the lightning flashing in my mirror.

 My arrival in NYC

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Present Past

As we enter our tropical weather season (with our first named storm, Arthur, not very far from where I stay), I reflect on the damage caused by the meteorologically complicated storm Sandy, who's damage was largely due to its quirky turn made all the more likely by changes in atmospheric pressure caused by rising temperatures and melting ice sheets. 

This past Sunday, a hullabaloo in the name of art and healing with the likes of Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, of course, James Franco, and others took place in the buildings around the beach farm. Used as a promotional image was a photograph of the sand-swamped barracks with ocean and blue sky as backdrop. 

Below, some plantings (and self sowings) made after sand restoration along the Belt Parkway.