Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Color of the Week: Gone

This eighty year old oak has been the view from my front porch for quite some time. It has lost some limbs and has needed trimming as have others. It has been home to squirrels and many kinds of birds, including a couple of woodpeckers and an owl or two. Most of the trees in the neighborhoods were planted after the 1916 Fire destroyed all the homes and trees in about 40 blocks. Now they are falling, or dropping limbs, or just threatening and someone has decided to do something.

Yesterday, I heard trucks and noises and discovered this scene: At 7:24am.

Soon after, I returned to the porch for this view: At 9:08.

As I left my house to take a short cruise on the Savannah River, I stopped for this shot: At 10:01.

When I returned, this is what I found: At 1:07

Except for the large trunk which I assume will be removed later this week, (and which by the way shows no rot) the tree, along with almost fifty others, is gone.

BushStrokes (c) AAB

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The Westobou Festival has taken the town. For ten days, it is impossible to see and do everything from art openings to choral and organ concerts to theater and film to lectures and readings. On Friday night, our choices were jazz, a silent movie or Christine Kane's Concert. I had blogged about Christine. Her concert was in the neighborhood, so it was an easy decision for older daughter and me.

Dusk was fading into night as we walked the block or so to the recently restored historic building. We followed others into the building and looked for seats. We were delighted to be sitting with our old friend Don Rhodes and we chatted about how we knew about Christine and her music. We had not seen her in concert, but Susan and I had found her creativity and motivational blog and then her music. Don had searched for links to the music to get information for his weekly newspaper column.

With Christine Kane, there is no band and no backup, there is just Chris, her voice, her guitar and her words breathed into the space of the music. She sings about unspoken truths which everyone knows is truth -- strong women and Southern nights, perfect vehicles for coming and for leaving, Jazz musicians and falling in love with the wind . . . . From the seat next to me, I heard murmurs of excitement and genuine appreciation and I knew that Don Rhodes -- whose column is the longest running Country Music column in the US, by the way -- had fallen in love with this music during an afternoon of youTube viewing.

We listened to Chris but also to Don as he anticipated phrases, marveled at the guitar playing and the range and texture of her voice. Over almost forty years of writing his Ramblin' Rhodes column, he has interviewed, met or written about everyone who is anybody and some who aren't. That he still had the ability to be enthusiastic about a new voice, made this more than just a Friday concert for us.

For me, the experience was like one in my early years of painting. I happened to be at the right place for spending some time with long-time American Watercolor Society President Mario Cooper. As the two of us wandered through a gallery of faculty paintings, he critiqued them for me pointing out design flaws and successes, suggesting good things to mimic in texture and color, and generally showing this new painter how to look at art. It was an opportunity to discover a whole new way of seeing.

Now, thanks to our friend, Don Rhodes, I have a new way of listening.

Don's column about Christine Kane
Christine Kane's Website

BushStrokes (c) AAB

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

She's Still a Hometown Girl

We waited.

In a partially renovated building, we waited.

On a hot Sunday afternoon where there was no air conditioning, we waited.

A group of older women, sitting in a row of chairs against a wall, fanned with their programs and waited.

The news media wondered if they would meet their deadlines, but they waited.

The punch bowls dribbled with rivulets of sweat and the desserts and the birthday cake got soft, but we waited.

And then she came: the star who had come home to accept keys to a building for "her" school and on her birthday.

After the speeches and introductions, she hugged the donor of the building as he choked up, remembering when he had seen her first -- on German television, a celebrity from his hometown!

And she sang. Clearly and joyously with no accompaniment -- "Bless This House, oh, Lord, we pray. Make it safe by night and day" -- her voice gave blessing to this place, the people who had come and to their hopes for the school which bears her name. She waved the keys high and thanked Peter Knox IV for the building and, as the cake was cut, seemed uncomfortable that everyone got to sing except herself! Then she greeted her old high school classmates in the row of chairs, hugged old friends, met some new ones and patted her makeup with a bright blue napkin for a quick TV interview.

The new building still needs some downstairs air conditioning, but upstairs is bright and cool with real dance studios and well-lit art spaces and practice rooms. It's just across the street from the church which has housed the school from the beginning and I think it is ready for its own space. I served two years on the Advisory Council and saw the kinds of things which can be done with an intense after-school program for teenagers through the Jessye Norman School of the Arts.

And, in the end, we didn't care that we had waited in the heat and humidity, wondering how quickly we could get away, because Jessye Norman is a Star.

And she's still a hometown girl.

In the photos:
Peter Knox IV & Jessye Norman
Jessye Norman and my daughter, Susan

BushStrokes (c) AAB

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lessons from Lucy: What's Your Shoestring?

This week, like most of my weeks, has been full of the kind of amazing adventures which only belong to little girls. For them, everything has the potential to be something else!

Lucy had read the shoe book and threaded the holes with the purple string until it became a dull game. So, she just pulled it out and began to experiment. Within just minutes, she had folded it in half, tucked the ends over her ears and pulled it over to "listen" to my chest. She had stretched it out and "measured" me. She had tucked it under her chin and "played" a violin. She had threaded through it her belt loops like a sash . . . . She thought up more things than I can remember. Imagination at work!

Later, after attending an afternoon concert of baroque music at the Morris Museum of Art, older daughter and I passed by an exhibit of photographs of local things. She said, "Mom, he takes pictures like you do. These just remind me of your photographs." I could see her point. I was complimented by her comment and agreed that they did "feel" the same and some were the same views! I was just a little intimidated to realize that these simple, yet powerful, photos were taken by Robert Rauschenberg! Oh, my!

Lucy is not limited by what a purple shoestring is supposed to be. Neither was Rauschenberg. He took ordinary, uninspiring bits of daily life and let his imagination go. This week, the Morris will reinstall his work "August Allegory (Anagrams)" and I will go for the unveiling and look more carefully at the piece to spot the influence from those photographs of familiar things. I will look at how he used his "purple shoestring!"

And when my work is ordinary and boring and uninspiring, I will look at whether I saw some new possibilities in a sketch or photo, played with paint and texture, used the idea as a starting point or whether I only used the shoestring as a shoestring. I will try to be inspired by Lucy and Robert.

Good question. I just need good answers to "What's your shoestring?"

BushStrokes (c) AAB

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Painted Feathers

Soon after I wrote yesterday's post, I misplaced it. Then, several things happened: I bought two books and I found my notes.

In his Twice Weekly Letter to Artists on August 13, 2008, Robert Genn wrote about his friendship with the bird artist, James Fenwick Lansdowne. Feeling a little "flighty" after sharing my morning with the birds, I was curious about a man who painted them all his life and who was Robert's life-long friend. I followed a link to Fen's book and ordered it from a used book store. Then while I was checking sources for the book, I remembered a bird book I had seen in the Morse Museum in Orlando. There had simply been no more room for goodies in my luggage, so I looked for it as well. Yes, there is was, a small book with SOUNDS! I ordered it from Amazon and have loved being able to hear the calls which match my backyard birds. Who knew such a thing was possible?

For me, Lansdowne's book had been a bargain. The book is filled with excellent paintings and text for more than 150 birds, but the thrill for me is that each one has a second plate with Lansdowne's preliminary sketches. It is two books in one -- a 10 pound jewel; certainly not just a handy-dandy field guide. So, when the large box came from The Book Man, I was sure there must be a mistake. Then, peeking from under the edge of the address label, I saw my name written on the box in pencil. No mistake! It was packed just for me! It felt like a present.

My thanks to Robert for sharing his friend with me and for leading me to two additions to my library which add to my knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Painted Feathers.

BushStrokes (c) AAB

Monday, September 08, 2008

Is There a Better Way to Start?

I see that this blog has had no new entries since June.

It has been a lovely summer and there are certainly things I will want to remember through this blog. So even though, it may not be the way to do it, I'll do what I usually do and pre-date a few things as I find the photos, notes and words. It is probably not proper blog etiquette. Oh, well.

But I don't want to forget Lucy and her painted hubcaps, cousin Sheryl and her big towel, another trip to Orlando by Greyhound bus, the experimenting which I did with Linda and Martha, Lucy as Cinderella and Belle with her dolls . . . Yes, there were days . . .

I think I'll just start here for now.

The day began quietly out in the country, the rumble of the distant Interstate traffic mimicking the ebb and flow of surf. The birds had not begun their cheerful/grumpy/joyful calling and the sun was not up. I lay in the old bed, only partly awake. As morning's first light pushed up from behind the trees, the sounds began with the thump of a squirrel landing from a tall pine onto the tin roof. It was followed by another and their little feet scratched their path across the peak. Suddenly, there was a harsh scream and some commotion as the birds called out "danger! danger!" and I knew that the big hawk was also awake . . . and catching breakfast.

The morning breeze flitted through the open window, giving no hint that today would be very hot and I prepared to watch the sun come up. As the rays touched the leaves with long ribbons of light, first one and then another, I sat on the porch listening to the morning conversations of the birds.

And then, from inside, I heard the quiet babbling of baby songs as Lucy and Belle began to wake.

Is there a better way to start?

BushStrokes (c) AAB