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Blog about the studio, life and travels of visual artist Carly Drew.

Filtering by Category: ON THE ROAD

Frist Museum of Art

Carly Drew

 Afruz Amighi,  My House, My Tomb , 2015.

Afruz Amighi, My House, My Tomb, 2015.

Anyone that keeps up with my Instagram stories already got a peak at some of the highlights from my trip to the Frist Museum of Art in Nashville. The two exhibitions that stole the show were “The Presence of Your Absence is Everywhere” by Iranian artist Afruz Amighi and “Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century.” Both exhibitions were beautifully done and I ended up spending most of the day caught up in all of the exquisite details.

 Afruz Amighi,  My House, My Tomb , 2015.

Afruz Amighi, My House, My Tomb, 2015.

 Afruz Amighi.  Nameless , 2014.

Afruz Amighi. Nameless, 2014.

Tucked away at the back of the galleries hosting the “Chaos and Awe” exhibition was the Afruz Amighi exhibit. Her work utilizes shadows and narrative to create an immersive experience for the viewer, with the placement and lighting reminiscent of an altar or other sacred space. The shadows almost become more important than the metalwork itself and the richness in the layering gives a kind of peculiar intensity to the installation.

 Matthew Ritchie,  A Bridge, a Gate, an Ocean , 2014.

Matthew Ritchie, A Bridge, a Gate, an Ocean, 2014.

Next was the “Chaos and Awe” exhibition which had the work of several artists that I’ve never gotten the opportunity to see in person. The over-arching theme was the often sublime collision of the digital space with reality, memory and emotion. It also showcased the variety of surfaces, textures and ways to use paint as a media. The work in the show was quite diverse and it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across Matthew Ritchie, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu and many more contemporary painters all in one place. Below are some of my favorite moments. You can find the artists name and work info located in the image descriptions.

 Sarah Walker,  Dust Tail II,  2008. (Detail)

Sarah Walker, Dust Tail II, 2008. (Detail)

 Dean Byington,  The Inquisitors,  2011. (Detail)

Dean Byington, The Inquisitors, 2011. (Detail)

 Dannielle Tegeder,  Lightness as it Behaves in Turbulence,  2016.

Dannielle Tegeder, Lightness as it Behaves in Turbulence, 2016.

 Pedro Barbeito,  LHC Red from The God Particle,  2014

Pedro Barbeito, LHC Red from The God Particle, 2014

 Barbara Takenaga,  Black Triptych (Blaze),  2016.

Barbara Takenaga, Black Triptych (Blaze), 2016.

 Pat Steir,  White Moon Mist , 2006.

Pat Steir, White Moon Mist, 2006.

 Anoka Faruqee,  (Left to Right) 2013P-83 (Wave), 2013P-68, 2013P-85,  2013.

Anoka Faruqee, (Left to Right) 2013P-83 (Wave), 2013P-68, 2013P-85, 2013.

 Corinne Wasmuht,  Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL , 2011 (Detail)

Corinne Wasmuht, Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL, 2011 (Detail)

 Corinne Wasmuht,  Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL , 2011

Corinne Wasmuht, Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL, 2011

 Wangechi Mutu,  Untitled from Tumors , 2004.

Wangechi Mutu, Untitled from Tumors, 2004.

 Wangechi Mutu  Untitled from Tumors , 2004. (Detail)

Wangechi Mutu Untitled from Tumors, 2004. (Detail)

A Few Days in Nashville, TN

Carly Drew

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The fact that I haven’t been to Nashville before this trip is a real shame and I have to say it’s hands down one of my favorite big cities in the South. I loved the laid back vibes, all of the amazing food and that it’s one of the few places that country music still reigns supreme. Didn’t quite get to see (or eat) all of the things on my or that everyone on Instagram recommended, but I’m not too worried because I know I’ll be back again soon. Read on to see all of the places I went and maybe get a little inspiration for your next trip to the Music City.


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DAY ONE

COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME & HATCH SHOW PRINT | I figured I had to do at least one of the big “touristy” things while I was here and fighting the crowds for this one was worth it. It was fascinating to see a lot of the moments, instruments and outfits that have shaped the history of country music over the years. As an old school country fan, navigating the exhibits made it painfully evident how far mainstream radio (let’s be real here - pop) country really is from those early roots in Appalachian folk and blues. Let’s hope that a few of the artists that are still writing songs with strong narratives are able to take back the reigns towards those roots. Attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame is Hatch Show Print, which was a cool little stop to look at recent show posters and get nostalgic over that familiar printshop smell (those of you who know, you know).

BAKERSFIELD NASHVILLE | When theres a good taco place somewhere, that’s usually where I’ll end up at some point and luckily these tacos did not disappoint. It was also a great place to escape the stifling heat of August and enjoy a refreshing mezcal cocktail.

TENNESSEE STATE CAPITOL & NASHVILLE FARMER’S MARKET | After walking several miles I decided it would be a great idea to walk even more and check out the Nashville Farmer’s Market. Luckily it wasn’t too far from the hotel and I got to mosey around the State Capitol down to the Capitol Mall State Park. At the Farmer’s Market I picked up lots of fun little snacks to try for a light dinner and sampled a couple of the local wineries. Then I spotted Jeni’s Ice Cream and figured I’d treat myself with some of my favorite ice cream after all that walking.


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DAY TWO

FRIST ART MUSEUM | After a quick breakfast of a chai latte and quinoa bowl from Frothy Monkey, I walked over to the Frist Museum of Art and spent an unexpectedly large portion of my morning browsing the exhibitions. I also had an amazing talk with a receptionist that give me some inside details on the best places to visit while in town. I won’t go into too much detail here since I’ll be devoting an entire post on my experience at the Frist, all on the work I saw in the museum and my thoughts on the exhibitions.

GALLERY HOPPING | After leaving the museum I continued on my art filled day by gallery hoping the rest of the afternoon. Stopping at the 21c Museum Hotel galleries, Tinney Contemporary and The Rymer. All of which had wonderful and incredibly different work.

DINNER @ HUSK NASHVILLE | Later that evening we made reservations at Husk Nashville to experience Chef Sean Brock’s take on Southern food specific to the area around Nashville. Having spent several years in the high end restaurant industry I have to say one of the things I enjoyed most was the sense of humor and combination of high/low that ran throughout the menu. I also applaud Brock and his team for not simply rehashing the same tired old recipes that “define” Southern food and culture, instead they choose to highlight the ingredients that are engrained in the region by adding little twists that toy between comfort and contemporary. I’ll have to make it a point to add Husk Greenville to my list of local stops.


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DAY THREE

BISCUIT LOVE | Of course I was gonna find my way to a fried chicken biscuit! Usually these types of places can be pretty over-hyped and despite the line out the door, I was very impressed with this little breakfast spot. We were through the line much quicker than anticipated and enjoyed our morning shot of caffeine while waiting on breakfast to arrive. Both biscuits were amazing - the Princess had hot chicken and the East Nasty had sausage gravy and cheddar (I mean how can you go wrong?). Definitely arrive hungry and be prepared to skip lunch, but it’s more than worth it.

SHOPPING | Fueled by fried chicken and coffee, some shopping was in order at the boutiques around the Gulch neighborhood. After not being impressed by all of the tourist trap boot shops the previous day, I made a beeline straight for Frye and Lucchese. A new pair of daily wear boots has been on my list for quick a while now and I’ve been struggling to find a new pair that ticks all the boxes. There aren’t many places in Greenville to drool over all the leather goods, so needless to say I was in boot heaven the next few hours and found way too many things to add to my wishlist. There’s also Urban Outfitters, Two Hippies and several other shops close by.

FOOD TRUCK FAIR & MUSIC | That evening we walked around the city taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway and a small food truck fair down the block from our hotel. We also enjoyed stopping to listen to the variety of artists playing music in every nook and cranny.


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DAY FOUR

FIVE DAUGHTERS BAKERY | We saved the best for last and picked up a box of Five Daughters doughnuts for the road. When I asked for recommendations on Instagram, this was the number one suggestion and these doughnuts are hands down the best Ive ever had. In fact they've officially ruined all other doughnuts for the rest of my life. Just sayin’.

GARDENS OF BABYLON | This place is a plant lovers playground and is a great place where you can find some more unique additions to your plant collection. Since we had a 6 hour drive ahead, I restrained myself and only bought two ferns, a cactus (that later decided to attach itself to my thumb, so we didn’t get off on a good foot), some small pots and a really cool metal hanging planter. This is definitely one of the places that I will happily go out of my way to get to next time I’m in this neck of the woods.


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ON THE ROAD HOME

DRY LEVEE SALVAGE | COOKEVILLE, TN | I’m one of those people that will always make the most of being on the road and has to hit any places I have bookmarked along the way. When I was out in Cookeville last winter there were two places I didn’t get the chance to swing in, the first being Dry Levee Salvage, an antique and reclaimed goods store that has some really unique finds. They had some beautiful pieces of reclaimed and salvaged wood for sale as well as a great selection of antique tools. This is a place I’ll always stop in out of curiosity.

JOHNSON GARDEN CENTER | COOKEVILLE, TN | Oops I did it again….yes the second place in Cookeville was another plant store. Not quite as epic as the last one, but much larger and with a lot of more variety than you would find at most garden centers.

WHITE DUCK TACO | ASHEVILLE, NC | Tacos are one of my three main food groups. No seriously, I could literally eat tacos for every single meal of the day (as evidenced above), so I have to admit I was not impressed with White Duck. Maybe it was just an off day or maybe it was just all of the amazing Nashville food, but this was a little bit of a meh note to end the trip on.

Hope ya’ll enjoyed the rundown of all my Nashville adventures! I have so many places that I didn’t get to on my list for next time and can’t wait to head back to the Music City for round two. What are some of your favorite things to do, see and eat in Nashville?

Tubing the French Broad River

Carly Drew

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It's that time of year when summer starts coming to an end and the beginning of fall starts creeping up and to celebrate these last few days of summer we went tubing with some friends down the French Broad River in Asheville, NC. A little time on the water is one of the best ways to keep what's left of those summer vibes going and a lazy afternoon on the river is a great way to get in a little R & R before plunging headlong into the craziness that is the pending holiday season. Pair that with a few stops for ice cold beer, some food trucks and a little good company, you’ve got a nice relaxing afternoon in the mountains.  


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TIP | Don't bring a lot of stuff and use a waterproof case. I used this Pelican case, which is just big enough for an iPhone, I.D. and a little cash with some extra room to space. It also had a hook for a carabiner, so all I had to do was clip it on one of the tube straps and forget about it. 


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ZEN TUBING | We didn't want to put a whole lot of thought into the process and Zen Tubing took a lot of the logistics out of the mix by shuttling us straight to the drop in point. I call that a win.

NEW BELGIUM | Not sure why I haven't been to New Belgium in Asheville yet, but they had one of the most interesting selections of sours on tap and I wanted to try the all. I'm not usually one for fruity beers, but after a few hours baking in the sun I needed something a little more refreshing and the Mural Agua Fresca Cerveza hit the spot along with a fried chicken sandwich and avocado slaw from the Root Down food truck

SALVAGE STATION | Then we floated down a bit more before stopping at the Salvage Station to escape a pending storm. Honestly the storms themselves aren't much of an issue (just pull off to the side), but be forewarned it gets a little chilly after a long day in the sun. We took the opportunity to  enjoy another round and listen to some live music.

WHAT TO DO AFTER | By the time we got home we were so tired and relaxed that all we really had energy to do was make nachos and binge watch some Parks & Rec on Netflix.


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Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain & Ivestor Gap

Carly Drew

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A few weeks back we woke up at 4:00am, loaded our day packs in the truck and to drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway in the dark to hike Black Balsam, Tennent Mountain and Ivestor Gap loop. It's been several years since I've been on the trail at Black Balsam, so the trip was long overdue. At an elevation of a little over 6000 ft. Black Balsam and the surrounding area have always been one of my favorites, especially considering how distinct the landscape is from where we live in the lower mountain elevations. The wide-open grassy balds offer a different hiking experience than many of the more heavily forested trails in the area and provide some incredible views of the Southern Appalachian mountains. Another great thing about the elevation is that temperature is about 15 degrees cooler, so it's a great break from the sweltering heat of late summer. Below I'll break down a little more information on each section of the trail and at the end give a few tips for hiking this trail and others in the immediate vicinity. 


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BLACK BALSAM KNOB

Overall the hike barely broke 5 miles total and if you start the loop from the Art Loeb Trailhead, you'll get the hardest part of the hike out of of the way first. We parked the truck in the parallel parking at the base, but you also have the option of more parking and restrooms further down the road at Sam Knob. The beginning part of the hike climbs fairly quick and is pretty rocky terrain, but once you get to the top of Black Balsam things level out so you can really start to enjoy the views. There's nothing like watching the mist slowly clear from the valleys below and see the clouds start to open up as you amble along the trail in the early morning hours. While we enjoyed the Black Balsam portion of the trail, the downside of this section was that there were a lot of people camped along the trail up and on top of the summit, so there wasn't too much peace and quiet. Also if you plan to photograph sunrise remember that even though you are at a higher elevation (meaning the sun is visible earlier), it can be pretty hazy in the morning due to the typical humidity of summer in the South. We were surrounded by mist the first part of the hike and didn't get a clear line of sight until a little later that morning after we moved on to other parts of the trail. 


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TENNENT MOUNTAIN

The Tennent Mountain portion of the loop hits more of that isolated backcountry feel that we love, but unfortunately didn't have time for this day. In fact the other other noise we heard were the birds chattering away in the blueberry bushes and coyotes periodically calling out to each other across the valley. This portion of the trail was a haven for cedar waxwings, brought in by the impending crop of blueberries. Another great thing about this elevation is that the rhododendron come to full bloom in June and there were actually still quite a few blooms when we were here in July. In several areas of the trail these bushes are quite high and the trench is fairly deep and a little dark, so navigating this part of the trail gets a bit tricky. I would highly recommend wear sturdy shoes and make sure to keep your eyes on where you're walking to avoid twisting an ankle.


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IVESTOR GAP

Where the Art Loeb trail meets the Ivestor Gap trail is where we decided to turn back and complete the loop to where we left the truck. There's a large rock at this junction that is a nice stopping point for a snack and to take in some more sweeping views, including both Looking Glass and Shining Rock. The Ivestor Gap trail takes you back towards civilization through cathedrals of pine trees decorated with more twisting rhododendrons. A large section of this trail belongs to a creek bed and is often saturated with water after heavy rain, so as I mention below, waterproof shoes are a nice luxury to have in this stretch. The closer we got to the Sam Knob parking area the more people we passed heading out or even just set up to paint plain air or read along the trail. We completed the loop at about 9:00am and I won't lie, it's a nice feeling to get in a 5 miles before most people have even gotten out of bed on the weekend. Plus the early morning hours often provide more opportunities for dramatic light and wildlife sightings than later in the day, talk about a win-win.


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HIKING TIPS

  • Arrive early. This means you beat out a lot of other people and gives you a lot more peace and quiet to enjoy the hike. 
  • Spray your clothing. In the summer the grasses and bushes are quite high, so I recommend wearing pants and spraying clothing the night before with a Permethrin spray to ward off any ticks and other nasty insects. 
  • Wear pants. The grasses and brambles you walk through in some areas will easily scratch your legs and a lot of the vegetation is soaking wet with dew in the early morning hours.
  • Waterproof Shoes. On a similar note a lot of the trail has deep trenches and creek beds that collect water, so waterproof shoes will help keep your feet dry in the muddy terrain. These are currently my favorite light trail shoes of choice because they do a great job of keeping my feet dry in wet conditions like these. 
  • Watch out for campers. Summer is easy camping weather and the summit usually has a lot of people camped out. The day we went there were at least 10 different groups scattered across the summit that had been camped out the night before and some of them were still dead asleep as we were hiking through. 
  • Keep tabs on the weather. Summer storms can roll up quick in Southern Appalachia, especially at higher elevations. Be conscious of the weather and always have some rain gear just in case.
  • Be aware of wildlife. I feel like this is a given, but a large portion of the trails are covered in blueberry bushes in late summer that attract a ton of wildlife to the area. Keep your eyes open and ears open. We saw two bears as we were driving back home on the parkway.
  • Watch for off-shoot trails. The top of Black Balsam can be a little confusing because there are several smaller trails that turn off that main one to explore the summit. Stick to the one that is most defined in order to stay on the Art Loeb to Tennent Mountain. 
  • There will be off-leash dogs. One of the main reasons we don't take Tennessee with us on heavily trafficked trails like this one is that there will always be someone with a loose dog or a small dog on a retractable leash. Now this is something that we are conscious of because Ten and I had been attacked by loose dogs twice while living at our previous house, which means she is extremely wary of meeting new animals, especially ones that come up and invade her space. If you have a dog that is similarly cautious, be forewarned that there are pretty high odds you will run into someone that is working off the knowledge that their dog is nice to everyone, but is possibly not taking into consideration that your animal might need space on the trail.

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Hope you enjoyed these tips and reading about our most recent experience hiking the Black Balsam, Tennent Mountain and Ivestor Gap Loop in the Pisgah National Forest. We're planning on heading back up this way in September for the Graveyard Fields Trail. This will be a new one for me so if anyone has any tips or recommendations for this trail let me know in the comments below! 

Arkansas Trip

Carly Drew

Sometimes you have road trips and sometimes you have r...o...a....d.....t....r...i....p....s. The ones were you just hope you make it out there in time and push the limits of your body to do it. I'm teaching a summer drawing marathon at Clemson, so had to squeeze this trip into three days. Which means 25-30 hours of driving all while hauling a trailer with a nine foot drawing that tanked the truck's gas mileage. With that said it was probably the craziest and most fun three days that I could've ever expected out of a trip to Arkansas.  

The whole reason for driving to Little Rock in the first place was to deliver several of my drawings ("After the Hunt", "Dove Study" and "Mylar Wildlife Studies") to Drawl Southern Contemporary Art for "The Gun Show." I have to admit it wasn't the brightest idea to submit one of my 10' drawings to a show over 10 hours away, but this exhibition was the perfect venue to show "After the Hunt" in all its glory. After loading up the truck to head out Friday morning we got stuck in the usual Atalnta gridlock on I-85 and eventually hit open road near Anniston, Alabama. From there on it was the long haul to get to Little Rock at a somewhat normal hour, this way we were semi-fresh and ready to deliver the work the next morning. 

The opening reception Saturday night at Cache Restaurant, right in the heart of downtown Little Rock, was definitely something to remember. They had aptly named smoking gun cocktails and a high impact subject matter only matched by the caliber of work on display (pun intended). It was really something to be a part of such a diverse group of artists and contribute to a very multifaceted conversation about gun culture in the American South and I was very honored to win first place from juror Chad Alligood for my "After the Hunt" drawing. Turns out all the effort of driving the work out there in the first place was well worth it.

At the opening reception we met a fellow that was not only nice enough to give us a good scenic route through the countryside of Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama (which is where the majority of photos in this post are from) and was also nice enough to put us in contact with the painter Glennray Tutor. On our way through Oxford, MS we got the chance to stop in, see his studio and talk to him about life as an artist. It's always great to have the opportunity to speak with someone who has had a long running career and experience in the art world and it was amazing that he (and his wife Marion) took the time out of their weekend to sit and chat with us. Needless to say we decided to truck on after our stop over in Oxford and made it back to the house around 3:00am. The late night was definitely worth it, Arkansas has been good to me and I hope to be back soon.

Washington, DC

Carly Drew

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In February we went to Washington, DC for a hot minute for a little museum hopping, eat some good Eastern European food along with a little vodka tasting. This time of year in DC is pretty magical, the winter light creates gold casts over the marble buildings and the long shadows magnify the aura of mystery in a city so steeped in history. There also aren't a lot of people that willingly brave the chilly air to walk and see the sights, so the city is nice and bare in comparison to other times of the year. 

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Once again I got to see a few Hudson River School paintings by both Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran. Bierstadt was the first one we ran into at the Smithsonian American Museum of Art, titled "Among the Sierra Nevada, California" and then shortly after I found another in the National Gallery of Art called "Mount Corcoran." I'll be honest in that I'm not a huge fan of Beristadt's paintings or personality. His trees always feel a bit clunky, the paintings a touch overworked and he was never the most humble of beings (for example he renamed "Mount Corcoran" to impress the banker William Corcoran [nga.gov]), but I do have to admire his skill in creating light effects.

In this case though I was less interested in his biography and more interested in the compositional parallels between the two paintings mentioned above. The similarities are indicative of how artists in that time would compile multiple studies of the same or different locations into the same composition. Bierstadt was a huge proponent of not only sketching and painting studies of his subjects, but also photographing them and more specifically using sterographs to heighten the depth of space. [Jensen] As is typical with many artists today, he would then bring these materials back to his studio and evaluate how they could be turned into paintings. 

Both works take place in the Sierra Nevada, which naturally gives them the same flora, fauna and geological basis. On top of this there are repeated elements that feel almost formulaic when you look at some of his other work. The sweeping curve of the lake around the right side of the composition is one of those things, it leads the viewer back to a stand of trees and up into the sheer rock faces in the distance. The animals that pepper the shoreline are also similar in placement and purpose. He also adds in excessively dramatic clouds and lighting to each of the scenes for maximum impact. I think this formulaic approach versus a legitimate study of the weather patterns, geology or realistic characteristics of that specific place is often where I get lost with the Hudson River School and particularly Bierstadt. There is such a thing as too much perfection and too much fantasy, the sickly sweetness that caused the derision of this type of work for decades couldn't help but be a biting taste in my mouth once I had the opportunity to study these works more in depth. 

 

 

On the other hand is one of my favorite Hudson River painters, Thomas Moran. I find Moran to be a bit more analytical and downt to earth than Bierstadt (not to say Bierstadt didn't observe the landscape, he just did it with a different, more grandiose focus). When he traveled Moran would tirelessly study the different effects of weather, geological formations the characteristics of specific places. He was less concerned with mishmashing multiple viewpoints and would often only shift the weather or lighting of a scene. Similar to Bierstadt he worked from extensive sketches and photos, but he also chose to work from memory and the feeling of the place more so than anything. This could be due in part to his influence from Turner, but I've always been fascinated by the process of intense study and ultimately the inclusion of memory into the work. Maybe this is why I've always been drawn to Moran, or it could be all of the umber and red dirt, who knows, either way anytime I see his work in person I get an inexplicably strong pull of connection to it. This is now the second time this has happened, the first was at Crystal Bridges back in November last year, and I spent an exceptionally long amount of time analyzing this amazing set of Thomas Moran paintings in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Seeing these three works was by far the highlight of my trip. 

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The last find was a small Andrew Wyeth painting of a window with a curtain billowing through that showed off his attention to detail. Again similar to the "Pentecost" work that I discussed in this post, it's a painting of a simple moment in time that has a maximum impact.

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Crystal Bridges Part IV: Curated Favorites

Carly Drew

 John James Audubon,  Wild Turkey Cock, Hen and Young,  1826.

John James Audubon, Wild Turkey Cock, Hen and Young, 1826.

The last few blog posts in this series on Crystal Bridges covered my stay in Bentonville, the Picturing the Americas Exhibition and Symposium, a quasi-religious response with a Thomas Moran painting and some thoughts on the museum. While I've covered some of the work in the museum over previous posts, there were still several pieces I wanted to highlight from the permanent collection, starting with Audubon's turkeys.

Anyone that knows me understands my odd fascination with drawing turkeys. There's this grotesque yet sublime beauty mixed up in a bird that can sometimes be genuinely dumb. The northeast corner of South Carolina is one of the prime turkey hunting spots in the southeast and in the spring/fall they are everywhere. My grandparents always had a few wandering around the farm in western Pennsylvania too, so guess you can say I've grown attached to them over the years and in an odd way they symbolize home for me. Knowing this can only explain a little of the sheer excitement when I walked in the first permanent collection gallery only to have Audubon's painting of wild turkeys be the first thing I see.

 Martin Johnson Heade,  The   Gems of Brazil,  1863-1864. 

Martin Johnson Heade, The Gems of Brazil, 1863-1864. 

In a similar vein I was also looking forward to seeing so many of Martin Johnson Heade's The Gems of Brazil paintings in one place. There was really something spectacular about the way they were grouped for display by the museum. It felt like they paid close attention to the scope of paintings he did in this series and his intentions to publish them in a book format. One of Heade's slightly larger paintings, Two Hummingbirds with an Orchid, was included in the Picturing the Americas exhibition. 

 Alfred Thompson Bricher,  View of Mount Washington , 1864. 

Alfred Thompson Bricher, View of Mount Washington, 1864. 

A painting exhibited in close proximity to Thomas Moran's Valley of the Catawissa  in Autumn was Alfred Bricher's View of Mount Washington. One of the two things that really struck me in this work was the handling of the atmosphere along the back edge of the lake. The dusky purples and blues that faded down into the surface of the water were soft and beautifully rendered. The level of contrast is another thing that stood out for me in this work. Bricher uses a fairly high contrast in his atmospheric perspective and has a more drastic jump (especially from mid to foreground) than several of the other Hudson River School painters I've seen. This way of depicting space in the landscape makes the distant background and foreground fight for the viewer's attention in an interesting way. 

 Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait,  The Life of a Hunter,  1856. 

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, The Life of a Hunter, 1856. 

I was intrigued by this Arthur Tait painting because of the reversal of roles in the interaction between the hunters and hunted. There's also a very strong narrative element that is usually a bit more subtle in other hunting and game paintings from this time period. While there were several things I enjoyed about it, there are definitely some issues. I've never personally been mauled by a bear, but I highly doubt they sit down when doing so. This bothered me a bit in that you can clearly tell it was painted from observation of either a caged, stuffed animal, or possibly even a photo. Although one of these was probably the most accurate (and safe) way to study a bear at the time, it doesn't lend itself to a very plausible painting. The reference for the bear creates an awkwardness to the piece reminiscent of a V8 commercial, with the bear is about to bop him on the head for not eating enough veggies. All humor and problematics aside though, the combination of hunting, narrative and landscape in this work made it one of the most interesting pieces I saw.

I'm a sucker for a good still life of wild game and Alexander Pope's Trophies of the Hunt from 1905 (above left) was a nice surprise. It was a heavy work with a little chiaroscuro, reminding me a bit of a Caravaggio painting. Another piece with heavy historical references was John Taylor's A Wooded Classical Landscape at Evening with Figures in the Foreground from 1772 (above right). The light in this piece was quite beautiful, setting up a nice backdrop for classical ruins and Claude Lorrain inspired feathery trees.

 Andrew Wyeth,  Pentecost,  1989. 

Andrew Wyeth, Pentecost, 1989. 

The Andrew Wyeth piece pictured above isn't actually in the Crystal Bridges collection, but from a book I bought in the museum shop called Wyeth: Andrew and Jaime in the Studio. There is a large of Wyeth's work locally at the Greenville Museum of Art, which interestingly enough was acquired with similar controversy to a few of the works at Crystal Bridges. His paintings were some of the first work I ever saw in person and have been fascinated with them ever since. The painting above is new to me though, which is surprising as someone that has studied a bit too much about Wyeth. Maybe in the midst of grad school I was looking for other things in his work and glanced over it, but this has to be one of my favorite Wyeth paintings so far. The linear qualities in the netting, subtle neutral tones and dramatic cast shadows all make this work come to life, in fact it almost seems to breathe right before your eyes. Hopefully one day I'll be able to see this one in person, but for now I'll enjoy it as is.

 Richard Estes,  Antarctica (detail) , 2007. 

Richard Estes, Antarctica (detail), 2007. 

A few other pieces that surprised me a bit were by Richard Estes. Honestly I've never studied Estes much outside of art history class so the work above, as well as Provincetown I and Acadia Park I, took me a bit off guard. I admired the sharp clean lines and hyperrealism that bear many similarities to his more famous paintings. After seeing this body of work I'm interested in looking at Estes more depth.

Below is as artist I was already familiar with, Neil Welliver. I was introduced to by a former painting instructor to him several years back. It's a much more frantic type of landscape than those mentioned above, but that's what makes it so exciting to look at. The scale and pattern of his work were two things that stuck with me the most and they've always reminded me a bit of Abbott Thayer's camouflage paintings

 Neil G. Welliver,  Snow on Alden Brook,  1983. 

Neil G. Welliver, Snow on Alden Brook, 1983. 

 Maya Lin,  Silver Upper White River,  2015. 

Maya Lin, Silver Upper White River, 2015. 

The last and coincidentally most recent work is a sculpture by Maya Lin. This piece is drawn directly from the terrain around the museum. The casting is made of the Upper White River, which runs across northern Arkansas and Missouri. It's suppose to be one of the country's best trout fishing resources, which is what inspired Lin to create this work. Rivers in the Americas used to be known for "running silver" because they had so many fish, which is what inspired her to use silver as a medium. The sculpture is really fascinating to look at and I came back to it several times to watch the light change across it. It was definitely my favorite contemporary work at Crystal Bridges, but to be fair anything that has to do with topography or trout immediately gets my attention. 

Well this concludes a week of posts about my trip to Crystal Bridges and Bentonville, Arkansas. Hope you liked reading about it as much as I enjoyed being there. It's definitely a place I will be back to many times in the future and I'm excited to see the museum grow.

Check out the other posts about the trip here.

Note: Unless otherwise noted all photos were taken by me at the exhibition.

Crystal Bridges III: The Museum

Carly Drew

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After glancing over the musuem in the first post I wanted to address it a little more in depth. When I first heard about Crystal Bridges back in 2011, I thought it was too good to be true. The architecture is stunning and the work housed in the permanent collection is a dream, but the thing that really sealed the deal for me is that it's in the middle of nowhere. To be honest I'd rather visit Arkansas over New York any day. After a few days visiting a city I'm done and museums in places like Rome, New York and D.C. provide a much different experience. This isn't to say the museums have done a poor job with thier exhibitions, I just don't have the tolerance to fight crowds. Often by the time you get a clear view of a work it's only a few seconds before you get crowded out of the way or someone walks in front of you to snap a selfie. It's frustrating. Instead of getting inspired and creatively recharged, I often leave tired and angry. It's akin to going to the mall on a Saturday afternoon, you never really find what you're looking for and finally just want to give up and get out. Art requires time to process, which I've rarely been able to achieve in many of the major museum settings of late. Crystal Bridges reminded me how fulfilling museums can really be. Everything had space to breath and people were courteous of others viewing the same work, which is something hard to come by anymore. You weren't being distracted or rushed, which gave adequate time to study, think and pay proper attention to things of interest. Maybe the difference is a bit of good old fashioned Southern hospitality, but it's the first time I haven't felt exhausted after visiting a museum in a long time.

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The second major thing that drew me to Crystal Bridges is that it's situated in the South. Obviously I'm a little biased, but there are so many great things about this area of the country and its nice to see an institution that can help highlight Southern culture in a positive way. I also have to commend Alice Walton on having the balls to snap up some amazing work and create a place like this. There's a lot Crystal Bridges does right. It merges art and nature, which is a classic combination. The rolling hills of Arkansas, crisp November air and the late fall colors created a stunning backdrop for the Moshe Safdie designed structure, which compliments its rural setting. The landscape also reflects the work housed in the collection. Viewing a Thomas Moran is that much more exciting when you can take a break from the art, cozy up with a cup of tea in the cafe and enjoy some natural beauty.

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Finally it's a place that anyone would feel comfortable walking into and talking about art. Which is something a lot of institutions miss and as someone that didn't grow up going to art museums is important to me. The more comfotable people are going to look at art, the more they will interact and get involved. The more people that get involved the more meaning it holds and if the experience is a good one that is something that will stay with them for life. My experience at Crysta Bridges and the work I saw has definitely left a mark and has provided me with insight and inspiration for my own work. Overall I enjoyed my experience at the museum and can't wait for another excuse to visit Arkansas!

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Crystal Bridges Part II: Picturing the Americas

Carly Drew

 Book Cover for  Picturing the Americas.  

Book Cover for Picturing the Americas. 

In the first post I covered a few highlights of Crystal Bridges and the 21c Hotel, today I'll be talking about my experience at the Picturing the Americas International Symposium and my response to the work in the exhibition. I arrived early that morning to go through and see the work first hand before the symposium started. There is something about seeing a work in person that can never compare to a photo. Reproductions lose any concept of scale, color nuances and the surface quality of a work. Many of the paintings in this exhibition I was seeing for the first time and quite a few, especially the South American artists, were entirely new to me. In true art geek fashion my Moleskine sketchbook and blue Staedtler pencil never left my side, jotting down notes on color, atmosphere and foliage painting techniques. I went through the exhibition about 3-4 other times during my stay and each time marveled at something new, a small passage in a landscape I hadn't noticed or the glow of a pigment on a scene.

The symposium began at 10:00am and ended around 5:00, so took up most of the day. For me the most engaging panel discussion for me was "Land, Icon, Nation," where several art historians discussed the ways artists in the exhibition helped construct national and even regional identities. Edward J. Sullivan, a professor of art history at New York University, had a fascinating and lively discussion about the Carribean landscape that made several very interesting points in relation to Caribbean culture and also the language of trees. Overall I enjoyed hearing about work discussed in a historical light, outside of art school its far too ofen that my only interaction with the history of art is either in books or a static museum setting. Seeing the excitement and energy of the people studying the work in the exhibition helped breathe more life into the paintings. Below are some of my personal favorites and highlights of the Picturing the Americas Exhibition. 

 Asher B. Durand,  Kindred Spirits,  1849. Photo Credit:  Ozark Echo

Asher B. Durand, Kindred Spirits, 1849. Photo Credit: Ozark Echo

One of the paintings I was most excited to see was Asher B. Durand's Kindred Spirits. Durand has always been one of my favorite Hudson River School painters, but more for his drawings and studies than anything else. Not that his paintings are bad, I just have more of an affinity for the quality of line in his drawings. I wasn't interested in Kindred Spirits for the technique as much as I was curious to learn more about the way he constructed his composition. The painting is idealized, made up of multiple places and perspectives that embodied the character of the Catskill Mountains. I work in a similar fashion by combining several images of one or more places into a single image, albeit this multiplicity of viewpoints is a bit more evident (intentionally so) in my drawings. Seeing this painting in person was one of the major highlights of my trip.

 Martin Johnson Heade,  Two Hummingbirds with an Orchid , 1875.

Martin Johnson Heade, Two Hummingbirds with an Orchid, 1875.

I got to see plenty of work from Martin Johnson Heade including multiple paintings in the museum's main collection. The thing that most impresses me about his work is the ability to build up a sense of thickness in the trees and receding space. It's almost as if you can feel heaviness of the humid, tropical air when looking at his work. Speaking of atmospheric perspective above are two detail shots from paintings done in 1868. The one on the left is by Otto Reinhold Jacobi, titled Morning on the Upper Ottowa. This was a part of a painting that was just spectacular in person. The way he used subtle but effective color shifts from warm to cool, the softness in the blues, dusks and warm neutrals is simply perfection. On the right is an Albert Bierstadt painting of Yosemite Valley. Instead of softness like Jacobi, there is a bit more crispness and warmth to the way Bierstadt has rendered the landscape. Both of them achieve a nice diffused glow and unity through the use of atmosphere and painted them in similar ways, but with drastically different results. These are things that are hard to pick up on when viewing reproductions of work and I thoroughly enjoyed dissecting these nuances in person. 

 Eugenio Landesio and Jose Maria Velasco,  Hacienda de Monte Blanco , 1879.

Eugenio Landesio and Jose Maria Velasco, Hacienda de Monte Blanco, 1879.

 Eugenio Landesio, "El Valle de Mexico desde el cerro de Tenayo (The Vallery of Mexico Seen from the Tenayo Hill) , 1870.

Eugenio Landesio,"El Valle de Mexico desde el cerro de Tenayo (The Vallery of Mexico Seen from the Tenayo Hill), 1870.

I also discovered a new painter, Eugenio Landesio, and was immediately struck by the way he handled painting clouds. After traveling to the Carribean this fall and seeing the towering plumes of afternoon storms first hand, I was especially drawn in to these pieces. Landesio uses a blush pinks, royal blues and warm greens to full effect in both works, showcasing how these colors could creates such a stunning atmospheric effect. The last two works are based on industry, the Paul Weingartner painting is about rain forest deforestation and Charles Sheeler's is a celebration of industry. Each are powerful reminder of the ways we change the landscape and use natural resources, which is why I was drawn to them both. Overall I really enjoyed the exhibit and it linked up perfectly with the other Hudson River School landscapes the museum houses in its main collection. 

 Pedro Weingartner,  A Derrubada (The Fell) , 1913.

Pedro Weingartner, A Derrubada (The Fell), 1913.

 Charles Sheeler,  Classic Landscape , 1931. Photo Credit:  National Gallery of Art

Charles Sheeler, Classic Landscape, 1931. Photo Credit: National Gallery of Art

Note: Unless otherwise noted all photos were taken by me at the exhibition.

Puerto Rico Part VI: Cloudscapes Home

Carly Drew

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