A few weeks ago I had a chance to sit with Tyler Nail, the Winston-Salem song writer and music producer, on his Red House podcast. In our wide-ranging conversation we compare notes on making visual art and music, discuss why taking care of your health is a rebellious act as an artist, being purposeful in life and in your creative practice, making tough decisions as a parent and when to let go, the resurgence of tradition and technique in art and music and many other ideas on life and art. Thanks Tyler for the excellent conversation!
You can watch it on YouTube or listen to it on any of the platforms below. And give Tyler a listen if you haven’t already. You can find his music here. Enjoy!
This Sunday at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem, come see some artwork and listen to live jazz. I’ll be there along with a group of Artfolios artists, and all artwork there will be available for purchase. The center is at 101 W 5th St, Winston-Salem, NC 27101, and the event is from 2:00 – 5:00 PM. You can find all the details here.
The Spring Studio Refresh is still open if you haven’t had a chance to check out some of these artworks. These are pieces I’ve made to try out ideas, to hone my craft, to demonstrate technique to students and for fun. You’ll find that work here.
And lastly, I’m headed to France soon to visit family and friends and for some hiking in the Alps. I’m closing my shop while I’m away, so if you have your eye on something you’d like to get your hands on soon, now’s the time!
Last day to order a painting for delivery or pick up this month is Monday June 6th.
On Saturday, I ran a trail marathon on Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, a state park 30 minutes from Winston-Salem. These are typical East Coast technical trails with plenty of rocks and roots to navigate and 4,500 feet of climbing. This mountain has inspired much of my work, both paintings and installation, notably Paper Mountain. I’ve also spent countless hours hiking and running and camping here, so it felt pretty special to have the chance to run this event. Here’s my race report for anyone who cares about the nitty gritty details.
The race approaches the mountain on the Pilot Creek Trail, heads up the mountain on Grindstone, then Ledge Spring trail, goes around the Jomeoke trail at the top, back down Grindstone, around the Mountain trail, then back up Grindstone, Ledge Springs, Jomeoke, down Grindstone, around the Mountain trail again, and back out on Pilot Creek trail. Here’s a map of these trails if you’d like to take a look for yourself.
It was a little above freezing at the race start and got up into the mid forties by the end. I carried a hydration pack with 1.5 liters of water, a small first aid kit, a little baggie of potato chips and gummy bears, and planned to grab most of my food and additional drink at the aid stations along the way.
The morning of, I had my typical “race breakfast” of oatmeal, scrambled eggs and coffee, and I did my physical therapy exercises to help make sure I didn’t hurt myself. I drove the 35 minutes to race start and after picking up my bib, I did my usual dynamic warmup, ate a banana and drank a bottle of water.
A small group of us gathered at the start and it started to rain freezing rain. There were many more people racing the 20km course, and they stood nearby. The mood seemed fairly calm and relaxed. The race officially started and those of us doing the marathon ran into the woods. I could hear the freezing rain, but the tree canopy kept us dry. The ground was muddy – as expected since it rained most of the previous week.
I passed some people and was passed by others as we all established our rhythm, and within 15 minutes or so I was basically on my own in the woods. The first section, Pilot Creek trail, is a 3.3 mile section that brings you to the base of the mountain.
I stopped at the first aid station about 30min in, grabbed a cup of water and some Oreos and was on my way to start the first of 2 laps up and around the mountain. I ate an Oreo on the way up Ledge Springs trail, one of the big climbs, and was shocked by how sweet it tasted. I had a hard time getting 2 cookies down, but knew I needed the calories. My belly felt a little off after that, so at the 2nd aid station at the top of the mountain, I drank some Coke which thankfully helped. I grabbed 1/2 a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and ran down the mountain.
About halfway down the Grindstone trail, I took a wrong turn (100% my fault). Luckily I realized I was on the wrong trail fairly quickly, turned around and headed back to rejoin the right trail down the mountain. I lost a few minutes there and laughed it off to keep my heart rate from spiking due to the adrenaline.
One my way around the base of the mountain, as I stuffed my gloves into my pack, I twisted my ankle hard, but quickly recovered. To me this stretch is mentally the toughest of the race because it’s long and feels never-ending, but I felt pretty good. I ate my 1/2 PBJ sandwich and passed the water aid station, a gallon of water along the side of the trail, and opted not to stop there.
I passed the fourth aid station at the start of my second loop up the mountain, had some coke again since it worked well to keep my stomach settled and grabbed a half banana to eat up on the steep Ledge Spring climb. Just after starting that stretch of trail which is a series of steep rock “steps” for almost a mile, my left inner thigh threatened to cramp, so I tried climbing leading with my right leg each time. After a few steps, I realized I’d quickly fry that leg too, so I went back to alternating legs up each step, but focused on engaging other muscles. It worked and I was able to very gingerly make it up the climb without fully cramping.
Another coke from the aid station at the top and I took a gel with me for the loop around the base of the mountain. On the loop, my right inner thigh threatened to cramp, so I resorted to taking very small steps as I climbed and hopped around the rock gardens along the trail. I ate some of the chips I had brought with me, hoping the salt would help. It didn’t help fast enough, so I quickly downed the gel and that did the trick. My pace felt pretty good on the flats and descents and I eventually made it to the last aid station just before heading back on the Pilot Creek Trail. I walked to drink a cup of water and had another gel to make sure I didn’t “hit the wall” on the last few miles. Other than stiff legs, I felt ok, so I decided to pick up the pace on this last home stretch. I caught and passed a group of 3 men about a mile from the finish and happily kept them at bay. They were chatting as they ran, so I think I was working a lot harder than they were, but I’ll take it!
As soon as I popped out of the woods I saw and heard my husband and our son cheering for me, and felt a surge of emotion as I ran up the grass to the finish. I did it! I was greeted with a finisher’s medal (and I’ve never been so proud to receive one of those) and a bowl of chili and cornbread which I ate as I walked around in a daze.
The race promoters put on a great event, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging trail marathon. I’d also like to take a second to thank my husband for supporting all my training and for being generally awesome. Thanks Tim!
It’s been a strange couple of weeks. We got a bunch of snow a few days ago – AND IT’S STILL HERE. If you’ve spent any time in the South, you might know how weird it is to get snow and for it to actually stick for a while rather than turn into a grey mess. While my classes at UNCSA started last week, I still haven’t had a chance to see my students in person because all our classes have been online. My son has been off school all week due to the winter weather. And I ran 23 miles last Friday – on a mountain. Yeah, you heard that right. I ran 23 miles and I’m still kicking.
If you’ve been following along on my journey, you might remember that I’ve been training for a trail marathon in my favorite place, Pilot Mountain. It’s been almost half a year of training so far and I have one more long run to go before the big day. But back to last Friday.
It was a pretty terrible run. Nothing felt right for most of the 5.5 hours I spent up on the mountain. But worse than the physical discomfort was the mental anguish (not exaggerating). I just couldn’t get it together and dealt with self doubt/pity for most of the run. It’s normal to have a particularly bad training session at some point, so it wasn’t totally unexpected. There were some bright spots during the run though: I got to use my first aid kit and save my foot from an impending giant blister for example.
After this experience, I have a good idea of what to improve on for my next long run. And as my husband Tim said, “Look at it this way: on a bad day, you still ran 23 miles.” ‘Nuff said.
In the studio, I’m in my usual winter routine of digging into fundamentals and studying color. I’ve been working on color studies and playing with ideas for a new project involving Legos. I’m not sure this project will amount to anything big, but it’s keeping my momentum going and may lead to other ideas.
My show at Charlotte Russell Contemporary is up until February 16th and we’ve scheduled a closing reception on Friday February 11th 5:30-7:30pm. Find more details on the gallery website here.
It’s heating up here in the studio and I’m pleased to share with you a few events where you’ll find me and my work this month.
This Saturday December 4th I’ll be at the Artfolios Holiday Bazaar with artwork available for purchase. You’ll find artwork from 17 other artists there and live music, coffee and snacks from 1-4pm at Current Coworking in Winston-Salem. Find all details here.
Last week, with the help of a whole team, I installed my latest exhibition at the Sechrest Gallery of Art at High Point University. The show includes a 19-foot tall painting installation as well as a 19-foot tall mountain of paper cranes with an approximately 12-foot square foot print. There is also a monumental video projection and a collection of paintings. Below is the video showing all 40 hours of the installation process. Read on for a breakdown of what happened during that time.
Measure/Cut/Attach the wire mesh to steel beams about 25-feet up
Tie fishing line to the mesh
Prep wall with masking tape to install 63 sky paintings in a grid
Tie fishing line to mesh
Prep wall with masking tape for 63 paintings grid
Lay out all sky paintings on the ground to arrange them for installation
Rebox paintings in order they’ll be installed
Start installing sky painting grid
Start attaching paper cranes to fishing line
Finish tying last remaining fishing line
Attach paper cranes
Interns start on this day: explain the work and each person’s job
Finish installing sky painting grid
Attach paper cranes
Hang all other paintings in the exhibit
Begin lighting mountain
Attach paper cranes and refine shape of mountain
Finish lighting mountain
Install largest painting in exhibit
Trim fishing line
Light all other paintings
I shot 1 photo per minute over the course of about 40 hours over 5 days, using a GoPro Hero 3+.
This exhibition is at the Sechrest Gallery of Art at High Point University, NC October 25, 2021 – December 17, 2021 Opening Reception: October 28, 5:00-7:00 PM Gallery Hours: Monday through Friday, 10am – 5pm
To see more details about each artwork or for purchasing, visit the gallery shop page.
THANK YOU to my partner Tim Bowman, the team of interns, Emily Gerhold and High Point University for supporting this exhibition.
Big skies… this is the working title for a new project I’m working on. I announced last week that Sechrest Gallery at High Point University invited me to show Paper Mountain, Sky Project and a group of paintings for a solo exhibit in the fall, and installation for the show starts exactly 90 days from today. Because I want to make a lot A LOT of paintings between now and then, I decided what this exhibit needs is a wall-full of paintings – sky paintings to be specific.
So I am making 50 sky paintings that will literally cover one of the gallery walls.
The paintings will be hung in a grid 19ft tall and 17ft wide.
I’ve decided to use acrylic on Yupo, a polypropylene paper. The acrylic dries relatively fast compared to oil paint, so I can easily stack finished paintings as I work. As for the Yupo paper, I like how slick it is to paint on, and I know that it will sit against the wall rather than buckle.
Why am I using paper rather than wood or canvas to make these paintings? I want the images to sit flat on the wall rather than jut out into space like a panel does. I don’t want the objectness of a panel.
I’ll share with you progress on this project as I go, so stay tuned for images as I figure things out.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an image of a sky I particularly like. This is Field and forest with red, one of the paintings from my Tiny Landscapes collection. I enjoy being able to see some of the underpainting of the sky… bits of pink and gold glimpsing through layers of sky and cloud. This little painting is acrylic on wood panel and measures 6×6 inches.
I spent a long weekend camping with my family at one of our favorite spots, Pilot Mountain State Park. We love spending time in this special place, and we hike there year-round.
We went to the summit one evening just before sunset and I couldn’t resist shooting a short video to share this landscape with you. The first views above are from that evening, looking toward Winston-Salem and then the Blue Ridge.
The second view is from one of our hikes in the morning, of Hanging Rock and Sauratown Mountain toward east of Winston-Salem. One of the unique aspects of this spot is that as you do different hikes in the park, you’ll have the chance to see 360 degrees of landscape from Pilot Mountain. Since the mountain’s rocky formation juts out of the surrounding hills, it’s not surprising that it was used as a navigational landmark and was called Jomeokee or “great guide” by the area’s first inhabitants.
My family and I often have interesting conversations as we walk. One of the ideas that came up was the meaning of the words grit and resilience. My husband took the position that they are one and the same. I argued they aren’t, but that there is overlap and that the two qualities can go hand in hand. In the last year since the pandemic hit, I’ve been thinking of resilience a lot. I didn’t realize it until relatively recently, and it feels like an important quality to cultivate now. Anyway, my brother, being the rational person he is, recommended we simply look up the definitions. So here they are from my good old American Heritage College Dictionary:
*grit: indomitable spirit; pluck
resilience: the ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy
I often feel gratitude to have such beautiful places just a short drive away from home. Spending time at Pilot Mountain walking and looking and listening fills me with contentment and with inspiration for my work. Now it’s back to the studio!
Find some paintings inspired by my time at Pilot Mountain here and bring some peaceful energy of the outdoors into your space.
*I like the way Angela Duckworth talks about grit in her aptly named book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. You can watch her TED talk here.